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Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act

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  • Scott Baker

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    (Stanford Economics Department)

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    Abstract

    In the late 1970's, rates of undocumented immigration into the United States increased dra- matically. This increase led to pressure on the federal government to nd some way of dealing with the immigrants, culminating in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This paper seeks to examine the e ects that the 1986 IRCA, which legalized over 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, had on the commission of crime in the United States. Using ad- ministrative data from the IRCA application process, I nd evidence that IRCA applicants are associated with higher crime rates prior to legalization and that, subsequent to legalization, this association disappears. I nd national decreases in crime of approximately 2%-5% associ- ated with one percent of the population being legalized, primarily due to a drop in property crimes. This fall in crime is equivalent to 160,000-400,000 fewer crimes committed each year due to legalization. Finally, I calibrate a labor market model of crime using empirical wage and employment data and nd that much of the drop in crime could be explained by greater job market opportunities among those legalized by the IRCA.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in its series Discussion Papers with number 12-012.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:12-012

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    14. Djajic, Slobodan, 1997. "Illegal Immigration and Resource Allocation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(1), pages 97-117, February.
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    16. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Paul S. Heaton & Steven D. Levitt & Kevin M. Murphy, 2013. "Measuring Crack Cocaine And Its Impact," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(3), pages 1651-1681, 07.
    17. Pia Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2003. "Do amnesty programs reduce undocumented immigration? Evidence from Irca," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 437-450, August.
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