One of the major issues that concern people looking for a place to rent is the local crime rate. No one wants their home to be in a dangerous neighborhood. Of course, this leads to a situation in which the safest neighborhoods are the most desirable and, therefore, the most expensive.
This is a well-known reality, and there is certainly a lot of truth to it. However, it only tells part of the story. While safer areas are more expensive and dangerous areas are cheaper to rent in, correlation doesn’t imply causation. In other words, it is not always easy to determine cause and effect.
Crime is always a concern, even when you live in a safe neighborhood. The pandemic led to an increase in crime rates after decades of decline. As such, if you rent a place in Chicago, you should have appropriate insurance. You should also install security features in your home to prevent burglaries, which are one of the most common crimes.
Let’s take a look at what the data says about how much of an impact crime has on the price of rent. Then we’ll look at the underlying causes.
The correlation between crime and rent prices
As long as data has been collected, there has always been a correlation between crime and rent prices. Recent data reinforces this. In Chicago, the more crime there is in a neighborhood, the lower the price of rent. There are outliers, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
However, this does not necessarily mean that high crime leads to low rent prices. The principle that correlation does not imply causation is one of the cornerstones of the field of statistics. But what exactly does this mean?
Here’s a simple example. If you look at ice cream sales and local temperatures, you will see that as more people buy ice cream, the temperature goes up. If you were looking at this without any context of how the world works, you could come to the conclusion that ice cream sales cause higher temperatures. Of course, we know that the opposite is true, but it is not the data that tells us this.
In the same way, the fact that crime is high in areas where rent is low does not necessarily mean that the high crime rate causes rent to go down. We need a bit more context.
Putting the puzzle together
There’s no doubt that crime is a factor people take into consideration when choosing where to rent. As such, we can comfortably conclude that crime rates have an impact on the price of rent. But the impact is not necessarily so big. We need to look at another reality as well: the correlation between poverty and crime.
Crime isn’t random. The people who commit crimes are not doing so because they just happen to be ‘bad.’ Rather, systemic issues lead to crime. These issues often include a lack of mental health treatment, discrimination, and poverty. Poverty, in particular, is a major factor in what causes crime.
Taking this into consideration, it is not much of a stretch to say that neighborhoods with high poverty rates (and therefore low rent) are most likely to have high crime rates. However, it is not just the high crime rates that lead to the low prices. People struggling with poverty moved there because of the low price of rent.
For Chicagoans looking to rent a cheap apartment, what does this mean?
Crime is unlikely to be a factor
You can take crime into consideration when looking for a place to rent, but if you’re hoping to get low rent by risking living in a dangerous neighborhood, you won’t have much luck. The reality is that the areas in the most desirable locations with high-quality housing are going to be expensive even if crime is slightly high. You’re unlikely to find a great apartment in a good location with low rent because of crime.
Ultimately, no parts of Chicago are free from crime, especially with crime rates rising, and it is a factor you should consider when choosing where to live. Nonetheless, it is unlikely to impact how much you pay in rent so much that it will save you money.