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Welfare Cuts and Crime: Evidence from the New Poor Law

Eric Melander and Martina Miotto
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Eric Melander: University of Namur and CAGE
Martina Miotto: CERGE-EI and CAGE

CAGE Online Working Paper Series from Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE)

Abstract: The New Poor Law reform of 1834 induced dramatic and heterogeneous reductions in welfare spending across English and Welsh counties. Using the reform in a difference-in-differences instrumental variables strategy, we document a robust negative relationship between the generosity of welfare provision and criminal activity. Results are driven by non-violent property crimes and are stronger during months of seasonal agricultural unemployment, indicating that a combination of welfare cuts and precarious work opportunities lowered the opportunity cost of crime for economically vulnerable individuals. We use data on county police forces and individual-level criminal records to rule out alternative mechanisms related to changes in policing and sentencing.

Keywords: welfare spending; austerity; crime; poor laws JEL Classification: H53; I38; K42; N33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-law and nep-ure
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