David Kirk

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Associate Professor of Sociology and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Expertise & Civic Involvements

Kirk’s research is focused on three inter-related themes: first, the legitimacy of the law and the effects of illegitimacy on crime and the willingness of residents to cooperate with the police; second, the effects of criminal sanctions on future life chances and social inequality; and third, prisoner reentry and the consequences of housing and parole policies for offender reintegration.

SSN Briefs

Key Publications

  • "A Natural Experiment of the Consequences of Concentrating Former Prisoners in the Same Neighborhoods" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 22 (2015): 6943-6948.
    Argues that concentrating former prisoners in the same neighborhoods leads to significantly higher recidivism rates than if ex-prisoners were more dispersed across neighborhoods.
  • "Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood" (with Robert J. Sampson). Sociology of Education 86, no. 1 (2013): 36-62.
    Presents evidence that a criminal arrest record has a substantively large and robust impact on dropping out of high school among public school students even after accounting for all the leading predictors of dropout. Also reveals a significant gap in four-year college enrollment between arrested and otherwise similar youth without a criminal record.
  • "The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities: Does Tough Immigration Enforcement Undermine Public Safety?" (with Andrew V. Papachristos, Jeffrey Fagan, and Tom R. Tyler). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 641 (2012): 79-89.
    Investigates the consequences of harsh immigration reforms on the willingness of residents to cooperate with the police and ultimately the ability of the police to detect and solve crimes.
  • "Cultural Mechanisms and the Persistence of Neighborhood Violence" (with Andrew V. Papachristos). American Journal of Sociology 116, no. 4 (2011): 1190-1233.
    Argues that the persistence of violence in Chicago neighborhoods despite gentrification and declines in poverty can be attributed to neighborhood culture, particularly cynical views of the police that lead residents to conclude that the police are illegitimate, unresponsive, and ill-equipped to ensure public safety.
  • "A Natural Experiment on Residential Change and Recidivism: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina" American Sociological Review 74, no. 3 (2009): 484-505.
    Utilizes Hurricane Katrina as a natural experiment to examine the implications of residential change for the likelihood of desisting from criminal behavior. Argues that offenders who moved away from home neighborhoods were much less likely to be reincarcerated in the future. Discusses how residential change can provide ex-offenders a fresh start, by severing ties to peers and social situations that contributed to their prior criminal behavior.

Media Contributions

Talks and Briefings