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Does immigrant legalization affect crime? Evidence from deferred action for childhood arrivals in the United States

Christian Gunadi

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2020, vol. 178, issue C, 327-353

Abstract: The implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 grants undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children a temporary reprieve from deportation and authorization to work legally, potentially increasing their opportunity costs of committing crimes. In this article, I examine the impact of DACA on crime. The analysis yields a few main results. First, at the individual level, comparing the difference in the likelihood of being incarcerated between DACA-eligible population with its counterpart before and after the implementation of DACA, I fail to find evidence that DACA statistically significantly affected the incarceration rate of undocumented youth. This result is robust to controlling for the differences in characteristics associated with DACA eligibility, such as age and age at arrival. Second, using the variation in the number of DACA applications approved across the U.S. states, the evidence suggests that DACA is associated with a reduction in property crime rates. An increase of one DACA application approved per 1000 population is associated with a 1.6% decline in overall property crime rate. Further analysis shows that this reduction is driven by the decline in burglary and larceny rates. This finding suggests that policies that expand the employment opportunities of immigrants may reduce crimes committed for financial gains that often do not lead to incarceration.

Keywords: Immigrants; DACA; Legalization; Crime (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J15 J18 K37 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:178:y:2020:i:c:p:327-353

DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2020.07.033

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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