Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Gauri Kartini Shastry


Municipalities throughout the country have adopted nuisance ordinances to recruit landlords in assisting with crime control. Nuisance ordinances are municipality-level policies that sanction landlords if police are frequently called to respond to a landlord’s tenants. To avoid a fine, landlords must abate tenants whose conduct was considered a nuisance under the municipality’s ordinance; most often, this abatement process involves evicting the tenant. Little research has evaluated the impact of nuisance ordinances on innocent tenants – particularly, female victims of domestic violence. Because domestic violence is seldom excluded from the list of nuisance activities considered under the ordinances, legal advocates have warned that the threat of eviction associated with nuisance ordinances could discourage domestic violence victims from reporting their abuse to the police. This thesis contributes the first econometric analysis of the effect of nuisance ordinances on domestic violence reporting and incidence. The variation in nuisance ordinance enactment across municipalities and over time provides the framework to identify the causal effect of nuisance ordinances on domestic violence using a difference-in-differences strategy. I find that nuisance ordinance enactment leads to a 16.5-23.2 percent reduction in domestic violence-related 911 calls for assistance and a 0.4-0.7 percentage point increase in self-reported domestic violence incidence in California. Nationwide, I also find nuisance ordinance enactment is associated with a statistically significant increase in online search activity related to domestic violence as a proxy for domestic violence incidence. These results suggest that nuisance ordinances have the unintended consequence of discouraging domestic violence victims from reporting their abuse, thereby allowing the incidence of domestic violence to persist.