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Externalities from Recycling Laws: Evidence from Crime Rates

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  • Bevin Ashenmiller

Abstract

This paper tests whether laws that encourage bottle recycling and also increase the labor incomes of low-wage workers have the additional effect of reducing petty crime rates. A simple choice theory model of crime participation and labor supply suggests that low-wage workers may substitute time and effort away from illegal activity to legal and remunerative recycling activity. Between 1973 and 2001, eleven states and one city enacted bottle recycling laws, and this paper exploits the variation in the year of implementation of the bottle laws to measure and test for any reduction in crime rates. The results show that city-level petty crime rates in bottle law states are on average 11% lower than city-level petty crime rates in non--bottle law states. Although the primary positive benefits of recycling income go to low-income individuals, the unexpected secondary benefit of lower crime rates affects both high- and low-income individuals. (JEL Q50, K40) Copyright 2010, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Bevin Ashenmiller, 2010. "Externalities from Recycling Laws: Evidence from Crime Rates," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 245-261.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:12:y:2010:i:1:p:245-261
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/aler/ahq001
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    Cited by:

    1. W. Kip Viscusi & Joel Huber & Jason Bell, 2011. "Promoting Recycling: Private Values, Social Norms, and Economic Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 65-70, May.
    2. Bevin Ashenmiller, 2011. "The Effect of Bottle Laws on Income: New Empirical Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 60-64, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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