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Formal Employment and Organized Crime: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Colombia

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Canonical models of criminal behavior highlight the importance of economic incentives and employment opportunities in determining crime (Becker, 1968). Yet, there is little causal evidence leveraging individual-level variation in support of these claims. Over a decade, we link administrative micro-data on socio-economic measures with the universe of criminal arrests in Medellin. We test whether increasing the relative costs to formal-sector employment led to more crime. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in employment around a cutoff in the socio-economic score, below which individuals receive health care if they are not formally employed. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that the policy had the unintended consequence of inducing a fall in formal-sector employment and a corresponding spike in organized criminal activity. There are no effects on less economically motivated crimes like those of impulse or opportunity. Our results confirm the relationship between formal employment and crime, validating models of criminal activity as a rational economic choice **** RESUMEN: Los modelos canónicos del comportamiento criminal resaltan la importancia de los incentivos económicos y las oportunidades de empleo como determinantes del crimen (Becker, 1968). A pesar de esto, existe poca evidencia causal que soporte estos modelos a nivel de individuos. Nosotros pareamos, a lo largo de una década, información socioeconómica de individuos con el censo de todos los arrestos en Medellín. Nosotros probamos si incrementar el costo relativo del empleo formal conlleva a un incremento del crimen. Se explota una variación exógena en el empleo alrededor de un corte en el puntaje socioeconómico, por debajo del cual los individuos reciben aseguramiento en salud si no están formalmente empleados. Utilizando un diseño de regresión discontinua, mostramos que la política tuvo como consecuencia inducir una reducción en el empleo formal y un correspondiente incremento en la actividad del crimen organizado. No se encuentran efectos en crímenes con una motivación económica menor como aquellos de impulso u oportunidad. Nuestros resultados confirman la relación entre empleo formal y crimen, validando los modelos que explican la actividad criminal como una decisión racional.

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  • Gaurav Khanna & Carlos Medina & Anant Nyshadham & Jorge Tamayo, 2018. "Formal Employment and Organized Crime: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Colombia," Borradores de Economia 1054, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdr:borrec:1054
    DOI: 10.32468/be.1054
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    4. Roxana Manea; Patrizio Piraino; Martina Viarengo, 2021. "Crime, Inequality and Subsidized Housing:Evidence from South Africa," CIES Research Paper series 66-2021, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.

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    Keywords

    Gangs; informality; Medellin; Bandas criminales; informalidad;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market

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