1932

Abstract

The randomized experiment has achieved the status of the gold standard for estimating causal effects in criminology and the other social sciences. Although causal identification is indeed important and observational data present numerous challenges to causal inference, we argue that conflating causality with the method used to identify it leads to a cognitive narrowing that diverts attention from what ultimately matters most—the difference between counterfactual worlds that emerge as a consequence of their being subjected to different treatment regimes applied to all eligible population members over a sustained period of time. To address this system-level and long-term challenge, we develop an analytic framework for integrating causality and policy inference that accepts the mandate of causal rigor but is conceptually rather than methodologically driven. We then apply our framework to two substantive areas that have generated high-visibility experimental research and that have considerable policy influence: () hot-spots policing and () the use of housing vouchers to reduce concentrated disadvantage and thereby crime. After reviewing the research in these two areas in light of our framework, we propose a research path forward and conclude with implications for the interplay of theory, data, and causal understanding in criminology and other social sciences.

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2019-01-13
2024-06-15
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