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More coffee = less crime?

Interesting linear correlation between increased number of coffee shops and decreased crime in Chicago. 

Paper here:
http://www.papachristos.org/NeighborhoodsCrime_2_files/Papachristos%20et%20al%202011.pdf
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31 comments
 
Another "Welll DUH!" study. I mean dude! Have you seen coffee people before they get that first cup or when their machine is broken? It is SO not pretty
 
Makes sense... Take away my coffee and just see what happens.
 
I believe they call that "Re-gentrification".. .hipsters are too busy doing things too new to explain than to commit crimes.
 
Post Hoc fallacy! Everyone (who isn't a "jagoff") knows that coffee shops follow affluence, on the heels of real estate developers ergo aggressive policing.
 
+Pascal Wallisch Portlandia, for sure. Of course, they are all out at the organic farm getting to know the chickens.
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+Pascal Wallisch It's quite a bit more than correlation, the arrow suggested by the article's title is backwards. There's a process called "real estate baking" wherein insider RE developers consult with aldermen about "15 year plans" (SMD city council members) in Chicago to make sure that the concentration of city services is well apportioned to the concentration of investment dollars.
 
+Jeremy McMillan Of course there is a causality in there somewhere, but it is likely complex and cannot be addressed with current data. What you suggest makes sense, but it pays to be careful, hence I only reported a correlation. 
 
I wonder if coffee shops are correlated with economic development?
 
These "hidden correlation" studies are often amusing, and often conceal valuable truths, like when the number of home runs for a city's  baseball team is inversely proportionate to the unemployment rate, but it works out that it's because in lean years, the team can't afford the very best hitters. As others have noted, there's something similar afoot here, although it's actually entirely possible that it's entirely coincidental: any upward trend over the last two decades [say, phone lines per capita, or number of airbags in cars] would suffice, as well, but I suspect it's a simple question of economy.
 
It's probably something along the lines of the cops frequenting the coffee shops more in white and Hispanic neighborhoods they listed.
 
+Earl Hollar Well put, but note that there is also a tight spatial (not just temporal) correlation here. Of course there is very likely a number of intervening correlations going on. Gentrification, population dynamics and so on. Hard to tackle this experimentally (to tease apart what is really going on).
 
Wait! I just discovered correlation! As MY body ages, crime in Chicago decreases! This is amazing! A sort of superhero, if you will. And my mother always limited my potential as a president of the US. Look at me now mom!
 
Another version of this is the (probably horribly wrong, but I haven't checked) saying that two countries with MacDonald's franchises have never gone to war. Well, MacDonald's is there to make money so they want a stable/growing economy and the rule of law. Countries with stable governments and good economies shun war. (With a couple of glaring exceptions, I know.) 
 
Or maybe people are just more likely to commit murder before they get that first cup of coffee of the day.
 
+Pascal Wallisch Connotations, connotations. Whenever you report a correlation, it's going to sound like you're implying the phenomenon introduced first causes the one introduced second. Probably partly due to the fact that correlations aren't really useful information without a causal reason.
 
Yuppers - a spurious causal relationship - my favorite is "Higher crime rates connected to higher ice cream sales!"

(Where the actual correlation is that both ice cream sales and crime rates go up during a heat wave, or summer in general; as temperatures rise patience goes down, something along those lines, which is the true connection.)

So +Pascal Wallisch you've done it again, and brought real conversation to the interwebs! ;)  I'm with you on it just being a correlation, as we all seem to agree that there's something more complex in the works, as you indicated earlier.

But I second the notion that some have already mentioned (affluence followed by more aggressive policing; though no offense, +Jeremy McMillan, but I like +Andrew Eva's hipster theory better!)

And also, for a single reference, I used to work at Starbucks, and the policy there was that if cops come in (in uniform), they get free regular coffee and refills. Their purpose in instituting the policy was to prevent theft and it worked as a business model for our location. Plus, since we had cop regulars, sometimes they'd pull in at closing just to walk us out after dark since our location wasn't the best. 

I'd imagine it works as a business model for Sbux in general, but I don't have any actual references to point to. Just pure opinion.
 
+Peter DO Smith - that's a really interesting theory, but being the skeptic I am, do you have any references on that?  :)
 
+Pascal Wallisch  Of course I know you wouldn't think coffee shops decrease crime. I just thought the fact that you phrased the correlation as "more coffee = less crime" instead of "less crime = more coffee" curious, since both inescapably connote a causal relation, and the latter indicates a much more probable one.

Upon actually clicking the link this time around (I know, shame on me) I realize you were probably just copying the language used in the article (shame on them!).
 
+Kyle Hughart Indeed, I was - trying to summarize the paper (claim and finding) in as succinct a way as possible. I did not intend to privilege a particular viewpoint. As +Peter DO Smith points out, less crime = more coffee. And an infinite number of other possible causal relationships. What I learned in the last year on here: Most people tend to accept correlation as causation if it fits/suits their agenda. It is really striking. Case in point: Look at all these self-righteous, smug PC people and see their ability to reason go right out of the window: https://plus.google.com/107033731246200681024/posts/UqUg1g5x6oU
And yes, I am judging them. Harshly. They deserve it. They ought to know better. 
 
+Pascal Wallisch  Yeah people can be pretty goofy about that with economics. Due to the unfortunate lack of a way to test most economic claims, it can be hard to oust nonsense from serious discourse. You lot in the hard sciences have it way too easy in that respect. :p
 
+Kyle Hughart - "There are three kinds of  lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics." -Mark Twain
One of my favorite quotes I pull out when talking about 'hard' vs 'soft' sciences.
+Peter DO Smith - Haha, I 'got' it (the humor, that is) in your response with Uncle Vinny as a reference... ;)  And then had a giggle fit for a second over your example - atheist fundamentalists?  I can see it, being that all "belief" systems have extremists as I've seen so far.  Nice! 

But! Perhaps in your view many look only at the numbers when doing quantitative studies, but there are just as many qualitative (though harder to measure in metrics sometimes) that bring in the "human" element rather than being just numbers only, so that's some reassurance perhaps? 

It's still a numbers game - 'on the ground only' studies are difficult, expensive, and harder to measure - frequently they're experiments in sociological studies, attempting to quantify actions, belief structures, needs and the lack of resources among many other items, in order to give a stepping stone for more quantitative studies, including focus areas, potential patterns of behavior that can be proven or dis-proved.

And, as I've stated here in the realm of G+  through several different conversations, "The best studies are those that use a combination of methods - in both qualitative and quantitative measurements."

+Pascal Wallisch - Hah!!  Hate I missed that one - my memory's fairly hazy (MS and it's meds do a good job of keeping me honest, or I'd forget I lied and get caught within the next sentence or two!)... but it seems I either read a blog post or perhaps even followed that debate without chiming in  (Oh my... I really musta been in a fog if I didn't throw my two cents in!)

But I do remember, IRL, having a nice debate on the topic, since I'd read something on it somewhere!
 
+Peter DO Smith - _sigh..._  Unfortunately, Latin's not my strong suit.  But a-googling and a-goggling and learning by osmosis, but with the isotonic method, IS - so some things disappear into the ether. I've learned to live with that. <snicker>

However, now that I've learned a little, I like the statement!  But why didn't he use Sabidius? Are you a metal/iron worker?  ;)

But studies are studies, theories are theories, and they may exist separately but we learn nothing without using both together along with statistical control over concomitant variables - ergo theories must be studied, examined, tested... several times over in a stringent manner. 

Except, it's just not always plausible to do that in all fields of research.  Or even financially feasible, if indeed plausible.
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