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Disorder, Social Capital, and Norm Violation: Three Field Experiments on the Broken Windows Thesis

Keuschnigg, Marc and Wolbring, Tobias (2014): Disorder, Social Capital, and Norm Violation: Three Field Experiments on the Broken Windows Thesis. Published in: Rationality and Society , Vol. 27, No. 1 (2015): pp. 96-126.

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Abstract

Adding to the debate about the “broken windows” thesis we discuss an explanation of minor norm violation based on the assumption that individuals infer expected sanctioning probabilities from contextual cues. We modify the classical framework of rational crime by signals of disorder, local social control, and their interaction. Testing our implications we present results from three field experiments showing that violations of norms, which prevent physical as well as social disorder, foster further violations of the same and of different norms. Varying the net gains from deviance it shows that disorder effects are limited to low cost situations. Moreover, we provide suggestive evidence that disorder effects are significantly stronger in neighborhoods with high social capital.

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