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The Economics of Extortion: Theory and Evidence on the Sicilian Mafia

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  • Luigi Balletta
  • Andrea Mario Lavezzi

Abstract

This paper studies extortion of firms operating in legal sectors by a profit-maximizing criminal organization. We develop a simple principal-agent model under asymmetric information to find the Mafia-optimal extortion as a function of firms' observable characteristics, namely size and sector. We test the predictions of the model on a unique dataset on extortion in Sicily, the Italian region where the most powerful criminal organization, the Mafia, operates. In line with our theoretical model, our empirical findings show that extortion is strongly concave in firm's size and highly regressive. The percentage of profits appropriated by Mafia ranges from 40% for small firms to 2% for large firms. We derive some implications of these findings on market structure and economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Luigi Balletta & Andrea Mario Lavezzi, 2019. "The Economics of Extortion: Theory and Evidence on the Sicilian Mafia," Discussion Papers 2019/242, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:pie:dsedps:2019/242
    Note: ISSN 2039-1854
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    File URL: https://www.ec.unipi.it/documents/Ricerca/papers/2019-242.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jakob Svensson, 2003. "Who Must Pay Bribes and How Much? Evidence from a Cross Section of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 207-230.
    2. Dimico, Arcangelo & Isopi, Alessia & Olsson, Ola, 2017. "Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: The Market for Lemons," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(04), pages 1083-1115, December.
    3. Jay Pil Choi & Marcel Thum, 2004. "The Economics of Repeated Extortion," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(2), pages 203-223, Summer.
    4. Mastrobuoni Giovanni & Patacchini Eleonora, 2012. "Organized Crime Networks: an Application of Network Analysis Techniques to the American Mafia," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(3), pages 1-43, September.
    5. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-298, April.
    6. Francesco Calderoni, 2011. "Where is the mafia in Italy? Measuring the presence of the mafia across Italian provinces," Global Crime, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 41-69, February.
    7. Buonanno, Paolo & Prarolo, Giovanni & Vanin, Paolo, 2016. "Organized crime and electoral outcomes. Evidence from Sicily at the turn of the XXI century," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 61-74.
    8. Andrea Mario Lavezzi, 2008. "Economic structure and vulnerability to organised crime: Evidence from Sicily," Global Crime, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 198-220, August.
    9. Adam Asmundo, 2008. "The cost of protection racket in Sicily," Global Crime, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 221-240, August.
    10. Varese, Federico, 2001. "The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198297369.
    11. Buonanno, Paolo & Pazzona, Matteo, 2014. "Migrating mafias," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 75-81.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Organized Crime; Economic Structure; Sicilian Mafia; Asymmetric Information; Principal-Agent Theory;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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