James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken window’ theory, dies at 80

March 2, 2012

James Q. Wilson, a political scientist who helped initiate the move toward community policing across the U.S., died early this morning in a hospital in Boston after a battle with leukemia, the Boston Globe reports. He was 80.


A broken window in Berkeley, Calif. (Ben Margot/AP)

The “broken windows” theory was debated in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 book “The Tipping Point,” and in Stephen J. Dubner’s and Steven D. Levitt’s 2005 book “Freakonomics.”

The Broken Window Brigade, a citizen initiative in Chattanooga, Tenn., explains the broken window theory in the video below:

Wilson was the author of more than a dozen books and his work often appeared in the national press.

Last month, Wilson wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the state of income inequality in America. “[It] is not a question of who is rich, but rather of who is poor,” he wrote. “The problem facing the poor is not too little money, but too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.” The piece received thousands of comments.

Wilson was a professor of government at Harvard University for 26 years, and later taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 for his work and writings on public policy.

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