CV & RESEARCH

You can download my CV here. Feel free to email me if you are unable to get past a paywall.

Published and Forthcoming Work

Ellen, Ingrid G., Michael Suher, and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa. Forthcoming. “Neighbors and Networks: The Role of Social Interactions on the Residential Choices of Housing Choice Voucher Holders.” Journal of Housing Economics [working paper]

Heissel, Jennifer A., Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, Kathryn Grant, and Emma K. Adam. 2018. “Violence and Vigilance: The Acute Effects of Community Violent Crime on Sleep and Cortisol.” Child Development: 89(4): 323-331 [article]

Sharkey, Patrick, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, and Delaram Takyar. 2017. “Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime.” American Sociological Review 82(6): 1214–1240 [article]
[press coverage]: NYTimes, Minnesota PostBloomberg, Curbed.

Sharkey, Patrick and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa. 2017. “The Effect of Violent Crime on Economic Mobility.” Journal of Urban Economics 102: 22-33 [article]
[press coverage]: Washington Post, CityLab.

Work in Progress and Under Review

Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard and Patrick Sharkey. “The Fall of Violence and the Reconfiguration of Urban Neighborhoods.”

Abstract: Over the past few decades, American cities have undergone dramatic change driven in large part by two major trends: the fall of violence, and the rise of urban inequality. Despite the attention given to each of these trends, there has been little research designed to assess how they are related to each other. In particular, we know of no research that has generated causal evidence on the impact of declining violence on economic segregation, or the degree to which the poor live apart from the rich. In this study, we present evidence on the impact of the crime drop on economic segregation in 645 cities in the United States between 1990 and 2015, using temporal shocks to city crime rates to identify causal effects. Our findings indicate that while the crime decline has not overturned the trend toward rising economic segregation, it has slowed its pace—in cities where crime declined more substantially, the segregation of poor households has grown more slowly or not at all. Our results suggest that falling violence reduces the segregation of poverty not by displacing poor residents, but rather by inducing an inflow of residents who are more likely to be white and have a college education into neighborhoods that had the highest poverty rates in 1990. However, in cities with tight housing markets where vacancy rates were low in 1990, we do find evidence that falling violence also leads to migration of poor households out of high-poverty neighborhoods, a finding that could reflect a process of gentrification and displacement of the poor. Although the rise of urban inequality has continued even as violence has fallen, the crime decline has had its greatest impact on concentrated poverty, which has long been thought of as one of the most problematic and harmful dimensions of urban inequality.

Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard. “Crime and Inequality in Academic Achievement across School Districts in the United States”

Abstract: This study investigates the long-term effects of community violence experienced during childhood on Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) achievement by the end of elementary school. The research design exploits geographic variation in achievement and crime across 356 school districts and temporal variation across 5 birth cohorts of children born between 1996 and 2000. To generate causal estimates of the effect of crime on achievement, the identification strategy leverages exogenous shocks to crime rates arising from the availability of funding to hire police officers in the local police departments where the school districts operate. Results show that birth cohorts who started elementary school when violent crime had declined score higher in ELA by the end of eighth grade, relative to birth cohorts attending schools in the same district but who entered the school system when crime rates were substantially higher. A 10% decline in violent crime raises eight grade ELA achievement in the district by .04 standard deviations. Analyses by racial group and gender indicate that black children, Hispanic children, and boys are more negatively impacted by violent crime in their school districts. Mathematics achievement levels appear to be unrelated to changes in crime rates. These findings extend our understanding of the geography of economic and educational opportunity in the United States, and they suggest that the effects of crime on economic mobility documented before operate through their impact on educational outcomes.

Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard. “Business Improvement Districts and Crime: Evidence from Chicago”

Abstract: This study combines administrative and survey data to estimate the impact of Chicago’s business improvement districts, known as Special Service Areas (SSAs), on crime rates and on indicators of community well-being and social cohesion. Results from a difference-in-differences approach and from a synthetic control approach suggest that SSAs created between 1994 and 2017 led to reductions in homicides, robberies, burglaries, and auto-thefts. Crime reductions in the areas where the SSAs operate did not displace crime to neighboring areas. The analysis of survey data reveals that individuals living in the neighborhoods where the SSAs were created reported lower rates of victimization. These findings are consistent with prior evidence from other cities and shed light on the role that community organizations have played in reducing crime rates in the United States.

Ellen, Ingrid G. and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa. “Gentrification and Fair Housing: Does Gentrification Further Integration?” Conditionally accepted at Housing Policy Debate 

Abstract: On the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, there is growing discussion and concern about gentrification.  In almost every American city, long-time residents feel increasingly anxious that they will be priced out of their homes and communities, as growing numbers of higher-income, college-educated households opt for downtown neighborhoods.  These fears are particularly acute among black and Latino residents who worry that the neighborhoods they regard as home are being taken away from them.  While people have strong assumptions about what happens in gentrifying neighborhoods, there is in fact little research examining the long-run trajectory of neighborhoods that have gentrified.  We aim to fill that gap, examining the longer-run racial change and composition of low-income, predominantly minority census tracts in U.S. cities that gentrified, or experienced large gains in income relative to their metropolitan area, during the 1980s and 1990s. We find that a growing number of predominantly minority, low-income neighborhoods gentrified over our time period, becoming just as likely to gentrify as other low-income neighborhoods between 2000 and 2016.  On average, these neighborhoods experienced little racial change while they gentrified, but a significant minority became racially integrated during the decade of gentrification, and over the longer term, many of these neighborhoods remained racially stable.  Indeed, neighborhoods that became integrated through gentrification appeared to be more racially stable than those that integrated through households of color moving into predominantly white neighborhoods.  That said, some gentrifying neighborhoods that were predominantly minority in 1980 appeared to be on the path to becoming predominantly white.  Policies, such as investments in place-based, subsidized housing, are needed in many gentrifying neighborhoods to ensure racial and economic diversity over the longer-term.

Balcells, Laia and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa. “The Political Consequences of Terrorism. Evidence from a Natural Experiment.” Revise and resubmit at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [working paper]

2017 Outstanding Paper Award from the Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Section of the International Studies Association

Abstract:  This study investigates the consequences of terrorist attacks on political behavior by leveraging a natural experiment in Spain. We study eight attacks against civilians, members of the military, and police officers perpetrated between 1989 and 1997 by ETA, a Basque terrorist organization that was active between 1958 and 2011. We use nationally and regionally representative surveys that were being fielded when the attacks occurred to estimate the causal effect of terrorist violence on individuals’ intent to participate in democratic elections as well as on professed support for the incumbent party. We find that both lethal and non-lethal terrorist attacks significantly increase individuals’ intent to participate in a future democratic election. The magnitude of this impact is larger when attacks are directed against civilians than when directed against members of the military or the police. We find no evidence that the attacks change support for the incumbent party. These results suggest that terrorist attacks enhance political engagement of citizens.

Ellen, Ingrid G. and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa. “High-Cost Cities, Gentrification, and Voucher Use.”

Abstract: Over the last decade and a half, rents have risen throughout much of the country, with the median gross rent rising seven percent nationally between 2001 and 2014, even after controlling for inflation.  One potential tool to protect low-income tenants from rising rents is the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Using restricted administrative data on the voucher program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we examine whether larger increases in median rents in a metropolitan area are associated with more frequent moves among voucher households, higher rent burdens, and higher neighborhood poverty.  Where possible, we compare the changes experienced by voucher holders to those experienced by the broader set of poor renters to learn if vouchers help to buffer the effects of rising rents. We find that rising rents in a metropolitan area are associated with a slight increase in the likelihood of moving and a slight increase in rent-to-income ratios among voucher holders in that metropolitan area.  The increases in rent burden are concentrated among those with initial rents close to the voucher payment standard.  Poor renters more generally see much larger increases in rent-to-income ratios as market rents rise.  However, perhaps surprisingly, we find that voucher holders end up, if anything, in lower poverty neighborhoods as median rents rise in their metropolitan area.  The magnitudes are again small, however, and similar to those experienced by other poor families.  Further, the reduction in poverty is experienced only by voucher holders living in central cities, suggesting it may be driven by greater gentrification of urban neighborhoods in metropolitan areas with rising rents.