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Tap the brakes--you're passing through a town where housing prices are falling

Posted by: Peter Coy on September 4, 2007


Hard to believe, but apparently true: You’re more likely to get a speeding ticket in a town where housing prices have been falling. Cops write more tickets when their employers need the money—and towns are hard up for money when local housing prices fall.

It’s in a paper called Political Economy at Any Speed: What Determines Traffic Citations? by George Mason University economists Michael Makowsky and Thomas Stratmann.

The authors go through a long list of factors that increase the likelihood that you get a speeding ticket instead of just a warning, such as being an out-of-towner. But for us Hot Property types, the most interesting one is that cops are more likely to write a ticket if the local property tax base has shrunk. True, the authors never make the explicit link between housing prices and speeding tickets, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to assume that if residential real estate is imploding, dragging down the tax base, the incentives for officers to write more tickets are going to increase.

(Hat tip to Judith Chevalier of the Yale School of Management, who wrote about the study in this past Sunday’s New York Times after having gotten ticketed in a small town in Vermont.)

(Legal disclaimer: We’re not making any statement about the motorcycle cop in the picture or the department he works for. It just happened to be a nice photo.)



BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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