John MacDonald

Professor of Criminology and Sociology

Ph.D., Criminology, University of Maryland, 1999

M.A., Criminology, University of Maryland, 1996

B.A., Political Science, Vassar College, 1994

Research Interests

Professor MacDonald works on a variety of topics in criminology including: the study of crime and violence; race and ethnic disparities in criminal justice; and the effect of public policy responses on crime. In 2012 he was awarded the David N. Kershaw Prize from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management for contributions to Public Policy by Age 40. In 2017 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology. His research has been published in leading scientific journals across different disciplines including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Epidemiology, American Journal of Public Health, Criminology, the Economic Journal, Journal of American Statistical Association, and the Journal of Royal Statistical Society. His research has been funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

A current focus of his work is on examining how policies and programs to change the land use of places can reduce crime and violence in neighborhoods. His current CDC and NIH funded research involves a randomized community trial of the effect of vacant lot remediation and stabilization on violence and injury outcomes and a randomized trial of abandoned housing remediation on substance abuse and violence. He is also active in studying racial disparities in criminal justice processing, and ways to reduce these disparities through policy and program reforms.

Selected Publications

MacDonald, J., 2015. Community design and crime: the impact of housing and the built environment. Crime and Justice, 44(1), pp.333-383.

MacDonald, J.M., Klick, J. and Grunwald, B., 2016. The effect of private police on crime: evidence from a geographic regression discontinuity design. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 179(3), pp.831-846.

Branas, C.C., Kondo, M.C., Murphy, S.M., South, E.C., Polsky, D. and MacDonald, J.M., 2016. Urban blight remediation as a cost-beneficial solution to firearm violence. American Journal of Public Health, 106(12), pp.2158-2164.

Heaton, P., Hunt, P., MacDonald, J. and Saunders, J., 2016. The short-and long-Run effects of private law enforcement: evidence from university police. The Journal of Law and Economics, 59(4), pp.889-912.

MacDonald, J.M., Nicosia, N. and Ukert, B.D., 2017. Do schools cause crime in neighborhoods? evidence from the opening of schools in Philadelphia. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, pp.1-24.

MacDonald, J.M. and Donnelly, E.A., 2017. Evaluating the role of race in sentencing: an entropy weighting analysis. Justice Quarterly,

Branas, C.C., South, E., Kondo, M.C., Hohl, B.C., Bourgois, P., Wiebe, D.J. and MacDonald, J.M., 2018. Citywide cluster randomized trial to restore blighted vacant land and its effects on violence, crime, and fear. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(12), pp.2946-2951.

Kondo, M.C., Andreyeva, E., South, E.C., Macdonald, J.M. and Branas, C.C., 2018. Neighborhood interventions to reduce violence. Annual Review of Public Health,

MacDonald, J.M. and Braga, A., 2018. Did post-floyd et al. reforms reduce racial Disparities in nypd stop, question, and frisk practices? an exploratory analysis using external and internal benchmarks. Justice Quarterly,

Courses Taught


Criminal Justice 

Proseminar in Criminology 

Proseminar in Criminal Justice 

Research Methods/Crime Analysis