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The Digital Scarlet Letter: The Effect of Online Criminal Records on Crime

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How does public access to criminal records affect crime? Economic theory suggests that expanding access to criminal information may increase the cost of crime to potential criminals by endangering their future work prospects and thus act as a deterrent. However, increased provision of information could also obstruct ex-convicts from finding legal employment and lead to higher recidivism rates. I exploit the state and time variation in the introduction of state-maintained online criminal databases – which represent a sharp drop in the cost and effort of gaining criminal background information on another person – to empirically investigate the trade-off between deterrence and recidivism. I find that online criminal records lead to a small net reduction in property crime rates, but also a marked increase of approximately 11 percent

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File URL: http://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2011/WP1118_leedn.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 1118.

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Length: 39 pgs.
Date of creation: 05 Oct 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:1118

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Keywords: crime; recidivism; criminal records;

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  1. Emily G. Owens, 2009. "More Time, Less Crime? Estimating the Incapacitative Effect of Sentence Enhancements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 551-579, 08.
  2. David H. Autor, 2001. "Wiring the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 25-40, Winter.
  3. Keith Finlay, 2009. "Effect of Employer Access to Criminal History Data on the Labor Market Outcomes of Ex-Offenders and Non-Offenders," NBER Chapters, in: Studies of Labor Market Intermediation, pages 89-125 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Harry J. Holzer & Steven Raphael & Michael A. Stoll, 2001. "Will Employers Hire Ex-Offenders? Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants," JCPR Working Papers 238, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Ilyana Kuziemko, 2007. "Going Off Parole: How the Elimination of Discretionary Prison Release Affects the Social Cost of Crime," NBER Working Papers 13380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson & David Pozen, 2009. "Building Criminal Capital behind Bars: Peer Effects in Juvenile Corrections-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 105-147, February.
  7. Funk, Patricia, 2004. "On the effective use of stigma as a crime-deterrent," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 715-728, August.
  8. Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2007. "Does Three Strikes Deter?: A Nonparametric Estimation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
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