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Isolating the incapacitative effect of social distancing on crime: Evidence from Ecuador’s Covid-19 lockdown

Clotilde Mahe () and Sergio Parra-Cely
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Clotilde Mahe: Department of Economics and Management, Université du Luxembourg

DEM Discussion Paper Series from Department of Economics at the University of Luxembourg

Abstract: Identifying the impact of incapacitation measures on crime, such as imprisonment or curfews, is challenging since any such intervention simultaneously dissuades from engaging in illegal behaviour. We exploit Covid-19 confinement measures as a quasi-experiment to isolate incapacitative from deterrent effects of mobility restrictions in a developing country, Ecuador. Difference-in-differences and eventstudy estimates show a significant reduction in violent and property crime, relative to comparable months in pandemic-free years. While the fall in violent crime is driven by rape cases, we observe no cross-crime substitution for property crime. Heterogeneity effect analysis indicates that the composite decline in violent crime is entirely attributed to incapacitation. In contrast, the drop in property crime is attenuated in provinces where the economic activity mainly relies on essential sectors and blue-collar occupations, leaving incapacitation to explain 40 to 50% of the composite decrease.

Keywords: Crime; Incapacitation; Deterrence Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions; Covid-19 Ecuador; Latin America. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I18 I19 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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