Using Fixed Effects to Examine the Impact of Stand-Your-Ground Laws on Crime: A Case Study of Quantitative Analysis in the Social Sciences


This case study describes the use of a fixed effects model to estimate the effects of stand-your-ground laws on crime rates. A fixed effects model is a commonly used estimating technique that is typically employed to examine the effects of public policies that differ across jurisdictions and over time. An example of such a public policy is the stand-your-ground law which defines the parameters of a justifiable homicide committed by civilians. Using a fixed-effects model and a log-linear functional form, I found that states with stand-your-ground laws had either higher crime rates than non-stand-your-ground states or crime rates that were not statistically different from those of non-stand-your-ground states. My study on stand-your-ground laws is a good example of the use of fixed effects for two reasons. First, fixed effects is most appropriately used when the public policy being examined changes over time and the change is not uniform across jurisdictions. Stand-your-ground laws have changed over time in some states but not in others, which implies that this type of policy is ideal for fixed effects analysis. Second, to conduct a fixed-effects analysis, data must be available for a sufficient number of jurisdictions over a sufficiently long time-period. Since state-level data on crime and socioeconomic factors are readily available for many years, fixed effects can be used to examine the impact of stand-your-ground laws on crime. This case study illustrates the usefulness of fixed effects in estimating the impact of public policies in a longitudinal framework.

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