Brian Bell, Rui Costa, Stephen Machin, 14 October 2018

Changes to compulsory school leaving laws that force some people to stay in school longer have been shown to boost education and reduce crime. This column uses changes in such laws in the US to show that the driver behind the reduction in crime is not better employment outcomes, but ‘dynamic incapacitation’. Crime rates peak at age 18, and keeping teenagers in school during this key period can help ensure that they never proceed down the wrong track.

Carlos Díaz, Eleonora Patacchini , Thierry Verdier, Yves Zenou, 23 September 2018

Many policies to tackle youth involvement in crime have been suggested over the years. This column argues that being ‘socially’ close to criminal leaders strongly affects a person’s involvement in crime. Focusing on criminal activities in schools in the US, it shows that a policy that removes all criminal leaders from a school can, on average, reduce criminal activity by about 20% and the individual probability of becoming a criminal by 10%.

Hope Corman, Dhaval Dave, Nancy Reichman, 08 September 2018

The 1996 welfare reform in the US was a major policy shift that sought to reduce dependence of single parents on government benefits by promoting work, encouraging marriage, and reducing non-marital childbearing. This column describes how the reform led to a decline in illicit drug use among women at risk of relying on welfare, a decrease in female arrests for property crime, and smaller declines in voting for women exposed to the reform compared to several similar comparison groups. The findings offer evidence that limiting cash assistance and encouraging work can lead to reductions in socially undesirable behaviours and increases in prosocial community behaviours.

Richard Disney, 30 July 2018

It is commonly assumed that policing in Britain cannot keep up with rising crime levels. Richard Disney shows that, while some police forces in the country do better than others, in recent years the average performance of police forces has not changed. He also discusses key challenges British police face today, from the nature of crimes they must tackle to their labour demand.

Christian Dustmann, Rasmus Landersø, 18 May 2018

Does a person’s criminal behaviour induce others to commit crime? This column exploits the fact that young fathers in Denmark are less likely to continue their criminal careers if their new-born child is a boy rather than a girl to identify spillovers in criminal behaviour. The analysis shows that neighbourhood peers of new fathers of boys become less likely to commit crime themselves than neighbourhood peers of new fathers of girls. The findings suggest that the benefits of programmes that reduce crime at a younger age are far larger than suggested by the primary effects alone. 

Rafael Di Tella, Lucía Freira, Ramiro Gálvez, Ernesto Schargrodsky, Diego Shalom, Mariano Sigman, 16 January 2018

Governments in Latin America seemingly go unpunished at election times for high crime rates. This column examines whether the region’s high tolerance for crime is the result of ‘desensitisation’, with people reacting less to crime the more they are exposed to it. It finds that victims of crime become desensitised compared with non-victims, helping to explain tolerance to crime and a weak relationship between crime and happiness in high-crime areas.

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. But those neighbourhoods also saw the highest turnover in occupants, suggesting that incumbent renters 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.

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