Impact of drought on crime in California: A synthetic control approach

Dana E. Goin, Kara Rudolph, Jennifer Ahern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Climate and weather have been linked to criminal activity. The connection between climatological conditions and crime is of growing importance as we seek to understand the societal implications of climate change. This study describes the mechanisms theorized to link annual variations in climate to crime in California and examines the effect of drought on statewide crime rates from 2011–2015. California has suffered severe drought since 2011, resulting in intensely dry winters and several of the hottest days on record. It is likely that the drought increased economic stress and shifted routine activities of the population, potentially increasing the likelihood of crime. We used a synthetic control method to estimate the impact of California’s drought on both property and violent crimes. We found a significant increase in property crimes during the drought, but no effect on violent crimes. This result was robust to several sensitivity analyses, including a negative control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0185629
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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