Steffen Andersen, Gianpaolo Parise, Kim Peijnenburg, 10 April 2021

The demographics of criminality are changing, with the share of crimes committed by older adults rising in developed countries. This column uses administrative data from Denmark to better understand late-in-life determinants of crime – specifically, severe health shocks. It finds that a cancer diagnosis can incite criminal activity, and argues that social support should be made widely available to vulnerable segments of the population in the wake of the Covid health crisis, when even people with previously clean records could find themselves drawn into illegal behaviour.

Hâle Utar, 28 March 2021

The Mexican Drug War, including the ostentatious killings and the targeting of civillians, has been amply covered in the media. What is less known are the economic impacts of the violence, particularly at the firm level. This column presents evidence from Mexican firms, focusing on the differing experiences of ‘blue-collar’ and ‘white-collar’ organisations. The results suggest that violence can cause a negative labour supply shock, particularly in sectors that more frequently employ lower-skilled female workers.

Mette Foged, Linea Hasager, Giovanni Peri, 20 March 2021

The labour market integration of refugees and immigrants is key to their ability to contribute to the economy of the receiving country and to enhancing the fiscal sustainability of more open immigration policies. Using the quasi-random assignment of Danish refugees to language training, this column shows that language acquisition significantly increased the lifetime earnings of refugees. Refugees with language training became more likely to work in communication-intensive jobs and obtained additional education. The positive effects are transmitted to the next generation in terms of improved schooling outcomes for male children of refugees.

Andrea Colombo, Ilan Tojerow, 07 March 2021

Decentralisation can help build trust in institutions by giving constituents a more transparent view of local decision makers and a hand in shaping public services. This column examines the impact of reforms that introduced the direct election of mayors to a region of Belgium in which mayors also lead the local police force. The region saw a statistically significant decrease in crime following the reform, but those effects were diluted when neighbouring municipalities shared policing responsibilities, thereby obscuring the window onto outcomes and offsetting the benefits of direct elections.

Monica Deza, Catherine Maclean, Keisha Solomon, 14 November 2020

The correlation between mental illness and crime has been widely documented. In general, individuals with poor mental health are more likely to be involved with crime, either as an offender or as a victim, compared to other individuals. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that policies that grant support to mental healthcare may have long-term positive effects on crime rates. Since crime is a complex outcome, a flexible and varied policy response is essential to tackling the issue.

Paolo Pinotti, 01 August 2020

Understanding the economic incentives and consequences of crime is an important area of research with immense policy implications, but it is not without challenges. This column summarises new evidence from studies on the causes and consequences of crime in Italy, focusing on recent improvements that address challenges related to the measurement of crime and to the identification of a clear effect of crime on economic outcomes.

Lena Edlund, Cecilia Machado, 27 June 2020

The urban renewal that transformed many US inner cities may have hit its first major speed bump with the outbreak of Covid-19. The ‘space versus commute’ trade-off has been thrown into doubt and confusion by work-from-home orders. This column draws on socioeconomic history, arguing that a mass exodus of skilled professionals to the suburbs could have major implications for inner city areas. Although this could spell the return to the homicidal days of the 1980s, the authors argue that this may not be the case – the reason being: cell phones and how they have impacted illicit drug retailing.

Theodoros Rapanos, Marc Sommer, Yves Zenou, 06 February 2020

Information and social norms matter in people’s decisions whether to commit crimes. Strategic interactions in networks influence the gap between the actual and perceived risks and costs of being caught. The column sets out a game framework in which the expectations of potential criminals are influenced by their peers. Surprisingly, severing these information links – even between relatively active offenders – does not necessarily lead to a decrease in the aggregate level of crime.

Anna Bindler, Randi Hjalmarsson, 27 January 2020

Determining whether increased policing reduces crime is a difficult task, in part because policing affects crime and crime also affects policing. This column approaches the problem historically, asking whether the introduction of the first professional police forces in the 19th century, from the London Metropolitan Police onwards, reduced crime. It finds that when police forces were sufficiently large and well-regulated, they had a crime-reducing effect that, while not immediate, did persist over time.

Francesco Drago, Roberto Galbiati, Francesco Sobbrio, 24 December 2019

Assessing how voters respond to public policies they like or dislike is challenging due to the absence of counterfactual scenarios. This column exploits a collective pardon of prisoners in response to prison overcrowding in Italy in 2006 to show that voters punish incumbent politicians for unpopular policies they are deemed responsible for. Regions with greater incidents of recidivism were those where incumbent politicians fared more poorly in post-pardon elections.

Vladimir Otrachshenko, Olga Popova, José Tavares, 22 December 2019

There is evidence that hot climatic temperatures and crime are linked. With climate change raising temperatures around the world, it is possible we may see higher levels of personal aggression. Based on data from Russia, this column shows that on hotter days, women are more likely to be killed in homicides, especially over weekends. Colder days have no similar effect on violence. Lower wages and higher unemployment contribute to higher homicide rates, so policies promoting employment may mitigate victimisation during extreme temperature days.

Vincenzo Bove, Leandro Elia, Massimiliano Ferraresi, 25 August 2019

Between 2014 and 2017, more than 600,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean and took up residence in Italy. Though crime rates during the same period continued to drop, a majority of Italians report feeling increasingly unsafe. This column investigates how immigration affects the perception of crime and the allocation of resources. Using detailed Italian government-spending figures along with municipal-level data on the population of foreign-born residents, it finds that immigration led to increased spending for police protection due not to higher crime rates but to the deterioration of social capital and unfounded fears of criminality.

Christian Dippel, Michael Poyker, 06 August 2019

The first private prison in the US opened in 1984. Over the next three decades, the imprisoned population increased by 194% while the country’s overall population increased by only 36%. This column examines the relationship between these two events, asking whether the growth of the private prison industry contributed to climbing incarceration rates. It concludes that private prisons moderately increased sentence lengths but not the likelihood of conviction, and finds no evidence that private prisons directly influenced judges or exacerbated existing racial biases in the judicial system.

Ignacio Munyo, Martín Rossi, 30 June 2019

An increasing number of cities worldwide use surveillance cameras to prevent crime, but little is known about whether these cameras reduce crime or simply move it to other locations. This column studies the impact of a large-scale introduction of police-monitored cameras in Montevideo, Uruguay. The findings indicate a 20% reduction in crime in areas of the city where the cameras are located, with no evidence of a displacement effect. The programme also appears to offer value for money compared with other security and crime prevention measures.

Mathieu Couttenier, Sophie Hatte, Mathias Thoenig, Stephanos Vlachos, 02 April 2019

Populists often claim that immigration is a threat to the interests of the majority. This column quantifies the extent to which the media coverage of immigrant crime fuelled populist political support in a Swiss referendum. It finds that disproportionate coverage of immigrant crime increased an anti-minaret vote by 5%.

Amanda Agan, Michael Makowsky, 10 November 2018

Individuals with a criminal record face difficulties in the labour market that can compel them to reoffend. This column reveals how increases in the minimum wage in the US reduce the likelihood of recently released felons being reincarcerated, while an income-related tax subsidy has a similar effect for women, but not men. The results suggest significant welfare benefits from policiesthat help raise wages above the potential income from criminal activity.

Stephen Machin, 26 October 2018

We know that increasing the school leaving age cuts crime, but why? Is it because kids who are most likely to commit crimes are learning things that make them more employable, or is just because they're off the streets? Tim Phillips talks to Steve Machin of the LSE about new research into the importance of these effects.

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.

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