David Autor, Christopher Palmer, Parag Pathak, 16 November 2017

Separating cause from effect is notoriously difficult when it comes to gentrification and neighbourhood amenities, including public safety. This column exploits the sudden ending of a rent control regime in Cambridge, MA to examine whether and by how much gentrification affects crime. In the years immediately following the end of rent control, crime fell significantly more in neighbourhoods that had been heavily rent controlled. However, those neighbourhoods also saw the highest turnover in occupants, suggesting that incumbent renters of in these areas were priced out of their properties and thus missed out on the benefits from gentrification.

Pietro A. Bianchi, Antonio Marra, Donato Masciandaro, Nicola Pecchiari, 13 September 2017

Economic theory doesn’t provide a clear prediction on how a firm’s performance will be affected if some of its board members have ties to organised crime. This column explores this issue using a unique Italian dataset that includes confidential information about ongoing investigations. Seven percent of firms are found to have at least one director under investigation, and these firms demonstrate, on average, lower levels of cash holdings and worse profitability compared with ‘untainted’ firms.

Rafael Dix-Carneiro, Rodrigo R. Soares, Gabriel Ulyssea, 31 August 2017

Local economic shocks induced by the Brazilian trade liberalisation had substantial effects on homicides. This column examines these effects and attempts to disentangle the mechanisms through which they occurred. Reductions in employment rates appear to have been the main driving force.

Jorge Luis García, James Heckman, Duncan Ermini Leaf, María Prados, 25 August 2017

The costs and benefits of early childcare for working women and their children are hotly debated. This column explores the long-term benefits and costs of a programme in the US providing high-quality childcare services for disadvantaged families. The programme has a two-generation impact, improving mothers’ labour income, work experience, and education, as well as outcomes for the children. The results also suggest that the benefits of high-quality compared to low-quality formal care are higher for boys than for girls. Overall, the benefits more than recoup the costs.

Roberto Ganau, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 19 August 2017

Whether organised crime undermines productivity has been studied extensively in broad terms, but not at the firm level. This column uses extensive firm-level data from across Italy to suggest that this is firmly the case, both through direct and indirect channels. The results point to a substantial negative direct effect of organised crime on firms' productivity growth. Moreover, any positive impact derived from industrial clustering and agglomeration economies is thoroughly debilitated by a strong presence of organised criminality.

Patrick Bennett, Amine Ouazad, 29 October 2016

A substantial body of literature finds significant effects of unemployment rates on crime rates. However, relatively little is known about the direct impact of individual unemployment on individual crime. This column examines the effect of job displacement on crime using 15 years of Danish administrative data. Being subject to a sudden and unexpected mass-layoff is found to increase the probability that an individual commits a crime. However, the findings stress the importance of policies targeting education and income inequality in mitigating crime.

Ivan Lopez Cruz, Sebastian Galiani, Gustavo Torrens, 24 May 2016

A large empirical literature has revealed the effects of preventative and punitive measures on crime. This column examines the effects of police deployment strategies, comparing geographically concentrated protection with evenly dispersed protection across a city. The results suggests that when considering changes in the geographic distribution of police forces, we should take into account the effects on house prices and on reallocation of the population, as well as the overall effect on crime in the entire city. 

Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson, 19 April 2016

Women remain underrepresented in many aspects of political and civic life. This column explores the empirical significance of representation, exploiting a 1919 law that made women eligible to serve on English juries. Archival court data show that female representation boosted convictions in sex offenses cases. The magnitude of results highlights how dramatically underrepresentation can influence the functioning of civic institutions.

Mathieu Couttenier, Veronica Preotu, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, 06 April 2016

The refugee crisis that erupted in 2015 has raised concerns about potential violence and criminality of the migrants. This column investigates whether past exposure to conflict makes asylum seekers in Switzerland more violent. The findings show that cohorts exposed to civil conflicts/mass killings during childhood are, on average, 40% more prone to violent crimes than their co-nationals born after the conflict. Certain policies can mitigate this result. In particular, offering labour market access to asylum seekers eliminates all the effect.

Randi Hjalmarsson, Matthew Lindquist, 02 April 2016

The effects of mandatory military conscription on the education, crime, and labour market outcomes of the draftees are not clear. This column suggests that the heterogeneous nature of the effects could be an explanation for the lack of consensus. The findings show that military service increases the likelihood of future crimes, mostly among males from disadvantaged backgrounds and with a previous criminal history. The only positive effect of conscription for this group is the decrease in disability benefits and the number of sick days. 

Peter Sands, 19 February 2016

A move is afoot to eliminate high denomination bills such as the €500 note. This column argues that the elimination would not, on its own, stem the flow of funds to support terrorism, but it is a necessary step on the road to restricting terrorist finance. While there are counter-arguments, they tend to argue for activities that involve breaking the law – in one way or another. 

James Feyrer, Erin Mansur, Bruce Sacerdote, 16 November 2015

Fracking has driven an oil and natural gas boom in the US over the past decade. This column examines the impact these mining activities have had on local and regional economies. US counties enjoy significant economic benefits, including increased wages and new job creation. These effects grow as the geographic radius is extended to include neighbouring areas in the region. The results suggest that the fracking boom provided some insulation for these areas during the Great Recession, and lowered national unemployment by as much as 0.5%.

Ignacio Munyo, Martín Rossi, 03 July 2015

Sadly, a large number of crimes are committed by ex-prisoners on their first day of release. This column presents evidence showing that on any given day the number of inmates released from incarceration significantly affects the number of offences committed on that day. ‘First-day recidivism’ can be eliminated by an increase in the gratuity provided to prisoners at the time of their release. It’s much cheaper than any other option.

Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015

Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.

Yves Zenou, 08 January 2015

Targeting key players in a network can have important effects due to multipliers arising from peer effects. This column argues that this is particularly true for crime –the success in reducing crime in Chicago was due to the targeting of 400 key players rather than spending resources on more general targets. Key-player policies in crime, education, R&D networks, financial networks, and diffusion of microfinance outperform other policies such as targeting the most active agents in a network.

Arnaud Chevalier, Olivier Marie, 08 November 2014

Children born in crises face different initial conditions. Data on children born in East Germany just after the Berlin Wall came down confirms that this corresponds to worse adult outcomes. ‘Children of the Wall’ have 40% higher arrest rates, are 33% more likely to have repeated a grade by age 12, and are 9% more likely to have been put into a lower educational track. This column argues that these negative outcomes can be explained by the lower average parenting skills of those who decided to have children during a period of high economic uncertainty.

Bart Golsteyn, Hans Grönqvist, Lena Lindahl, 19 August 2014

Time preference has substantial economic consequences. To a growing literature that shows patience to be an important indicator of economic outcomes, this column presents new evidence from a large administrative dataset that tracks children into adulthood. Those who reported more patient preferences as children move on to better labour market and health outcomes, and are less likely to become criminals.

Vicky Pryce, 15 February 2014

Vicky Pryce talks to Viv Davies about her recent book ‘Prisonomics: Behind bars in Britain’s failing prisons’, which analyses the economic and social costs and consequences of women in prison and women’s prisons in the UK. Pryce presents the case for penal reform and provides a number of policy recommendations. The interview was recorded in London in January 2014.

Stephen Machin, Olivier Marie, 30 January 2014

In many settings, criminal behaviour can be analysed just like any other economic decision-making process, namely – as the outcome of individual choices influenced by perceived consequences. This column explains the advantages of adopting an economic approach to understanding crime. Furthermore, criminal law and crime-prevention programmes can be evaluated using the same normative techniques applied to health, education, and environmental regulation.

Anna Aizer, Joseph Doyle, 16 July 2013

The US imprisons more young people at a higher rate than any other nation. This column argues that, at a tremendous cost, incarcerating juveniles only serves to reduce their educational attainment and increase the probability of incarceration as an adult. New research suggests that using the numerous available alternatives will probably not only save the US money in the short run – as well as giving juvenile criminals better prospects in the future – but will also reduce future crime and thus future expenditures in the long run.

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