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Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act

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  • Scott Baker

    () (Stanford Economics Department)

Abstract

In the late 1970's, rates of undocumented immigration into the United States increased dra- matically. This increase led to pressure on the federal government to nd some way of dealing with the immigrants, culminating in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This paper seeks to examine the e ects that the 1986 IRCA, which legalized over 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, had on the commission of crime in the United States. Using ad- ministrative data from the IRCA application process, I nd evidence that IRCA applicants are associated with higher crime rates prior to legalization and that, subsequent to legalization, this association disappears. I nd national decreases in crime of approximately 2%-5% associ- ated with one percent of the population being legalized, primarily due to a drop in property crimes. This fall in crime is equivalent to 160,000-400,000 fewer crimes committed each year due to legalization. Finally, I calibrate a labor market model of crime using empirical wage and employment data and nd that much of the drop in crime could be explained by greater job market opportunities among those legalized by the IRCA.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Baker, 2013. "Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act," Discussion Papers 12-012, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:12-012
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2015. "Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, pages 175-206.
    2. Francesco Fasani, 2015. "Understanding the Role of Immigrants’ Legal Status: Evidence from Policy Experiments," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 61(3-4), pages 722-763.
    3. Paolo Pinotti, 2015. "Immigration Enforcement and Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 205-209.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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