Testing the theory of broken windows

March 10, 2006
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Bernard HarcourtMalcom Gladwell, posting to his blog yesterday, discussed the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics, and the implications of the arguments in that book for his “theory of broken windows,” which Gladwell developed in The Tipping Point. Concludes Gladwell, “I prefer to think of Freakonomics not as contradicting my argument in Tipping Point, but as completing it.”
Then he goes on to say: “Since Tipping Point has come out, there have been a number of economists who have looked specifically at broken windows—and tried to test the theory directly. Some have found support for it. Others—particularly Bernard Harcourt at the University of Chicago—find it wanting. If you crave a rigorous critique of broken windows, read Harcourt. He’s every bit as smart as Levitt.”
Later this year we will publish Harcourt’s new book, Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age which will include Harcourt’s argument against the theory of broken windows. We also published Harcourt’s book Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy.

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