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Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?

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  • Paolo Buonanno
  • Daniel Montolio
  • Paolo Vanin

Abstract

We investigate the effects of civic norms and associational networks on crime rates. Civic norms may attach guilt and shame to criminal behavior, thus increasing its opportunity cost. Associational networks may increase returns to noncriminal activities and raise detection probabilities, but they may also work as communication channels for criminals and may offer official cover to criminal activities. The empirical assessment of these effects poses serious problems of endogeneity, omitted variables, measurement error, and spatial correlation. Italy's great variance in social and economic characteristics, its homogeneity in policies and institutions, and the availability of historical data on social capital in its regions allow us to minimize the first two problems. To tackle the last two problems, we use report-rate-adjusted crime rates and estimate a spatial lag model. We find that both civic norms and associational networks have a negative and significant effect on property crimes across Italian provinces. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2009. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(1), pages 145-170, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:1:p:145-170
    DOI: 10.1086/595698
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    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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