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Social closure, surnames and crime


  • Buonanno, Paolo
  • Vanin, Paolo


This paper studies the effect of social closure on crime and tax evasion rates using disaggregated data for Italian municipalities. We propose an original and innovative measure of social closure based on the diversity of surname distribution, which reflects a community's history of migration and inbreeding. We find that, all else equal, communities with a history of social closure have lower crime rates and higher tax evasion rates than more open communities. The effect of social closure is likely to be causal, it is relevant in magnitude, statistically significant, and robust to changes in the set of included controls, in the specific measures of dependent and independent variables, in the specification of the regression equation, and in the possible sample splits. Our findings are consistent with the idea that social closure strengthens social sanctions and social control, thus leading to more cooperative outcomes in local interactions, but it reduces cooperation on a larger scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Buonanno, Paolo & Vanin, Paolo, 2017. "Social closure, surnames and crime," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 160-175.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:160-175
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.03.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan F. Schulz, 2016. "The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-networks and Democracy," Discussion Papers 2016-16, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.

    More about this item


    Social closure; Surname distribution; Crime;

    JEL classification:

    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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