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Numerous social indicators turned negative for Blacks in the 1980s and rebounded a decade later. We explore whether crack cocaine explains these patterns. Absent a direct measure, we construct a crack prevalence index using multiple proxies. Our index reproduces spatial and temporal patterns described in ethnographic accounts of the crack epidemic. It explains much of the 1980s rise in Black youth homicide and more moderate increases in adverse birth outcomes. Although our index remains high through the 1990s, crack's deleterious social impact fades. Changes over time in behavior, crack markets, and the user population may have mitigated crack's damaging impacts. (JEL K42, J15, I30)
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Professor, Department of Economics, Harvard University, 1805 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Phone 1-617-495-9592, Fax: 1-617-495-8570 2: Economist, Law, Business, and Regulation, RAND Corporation, 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138. Phone 1-310-393-0411 x7526, Fax: 1-310-260-8156 3: Professor, Department of Economics, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Phone 1-773-834-1862, Fax: 1-773-834-3040 4: Professor, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, 5807 S Woodlawn Ave, Chicago, IL 60637. Phone 1-773-702-7280, Fax: 1-773-834-8172

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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