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Behavior, Human Capital and the Formation of Gangs

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  • Antony W. Dnes
  • Nuno Garoupa

Abstract

Behavior in dysfunctional social groups is often regarded by social scientists as irrational in nature. We focus on many features of behavior within the street gang, also noting the existence of other gang-like groups, and show how apparently irrational behavior can signal the possession of valuable human capital. We contend that gangs are formed around particular traits of direct value to the group, and therefore of indirect value to the gang member, and construct a model with a separating equilibrium consistent with the existence of a large gap between the characteristics of gang members and the rest of society. Policy implications include a deduction that increasing the opportunities for gang members outside of life in the gang, perhaps through offering an amnesty, might reduce gangs but will unambiguously make remaining gangs even nastier. Copyright © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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  • Antony W. Dnes & Nuno Garoupa, 2010. "Behavior, Human Capital and the Formation of Gangs," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 517-529, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:63:y:2010:i:4:p:517-529
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Friehe, Tim, 2013. "Tempting righteous citizens? Counterintuitive effects of increasing sanctions in the realm of organized crime," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 37-40.
    2. Robert Dur & Joël Van Der Weele, 2013. "Status-Seeking in Criminal Subcultures and the Double Dividend of Zero-Tolerance," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 15(1), pages 77-93, February.
    3. Panu Poutvaara & Mikael Priks, 2011. "Unemployment and gang crime: can prosperity backfire?," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 259-273, September.
    4. Seals, Richard Alan & Stern, Liliana V., 2013. "Cognitive ability and the division of labor in urban ghettos: Evidence from gang activity in U.S. data," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 140-149.

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