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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1118931
 
 

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Predicting Crime


M. Todd Henderson


University of Chicago - Law School

Justin Wolfers


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan; The Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Eric Zitzewitz


Dartmouth College; NBER

April 2008

U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 402

Abstract:     
Prediction markets have been proposed for a variety of public policy purposes, but no one has considered their application in perhaps the most obvious policy area: crime. This paper proposes and examines the use of prediction markets to forecast crime rates and the impact on crime from changes to crime policy, such as resource allocation, policing strategies, sentencing, post-conviction treatment, and so on. We make several contributions to the prediction markets and crime forecasting literature.

First, we argue that prediction markets are especially useful in crime rate forecasting and criminal policy analysis, because information relevant to decisionmakers is voluminous, dispersed, and difficult to process efficiently. After surveying the current forecasting practices and techniques, we examine the use of standard prediction markets - such as those being used to predict everything from the weather to political elections to flu outbreaks - as a method of forecasting crime rates of various kinds.

Second, we introduce some theoretical improvements to existing prediction markets that are designed to address specific issues that arise in policy-making applications, such as crime rate forecasting. Specifically, we develop the idea of prediction market event studies that can be used to test the influence of policy changes, both real and hypothetical, on crime rates. Given the high costs of changing policies, say issuing a moratorium on the death penalty or lowering mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, these markets provide a useful tool for policy makers operating under uncertainty.

These event studies and the other policy markets we propose face a big hurdle, however, because predictions about the future imbed assumptions about the very policy choices they are designed to measure. We offer a method by which policy makers can interpret market forecasts in a way that isolates or unpacks underlying crime factors from expected policy responses, even when the responses are dependent on the crime factors.

Finally, we discuss some practical issues about designing these markets, such as how to ensure liquidity, how to structure contracts, and the optimal market scope. We conclude with a modest proposal for experimenting with markets in this policy area.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

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Date posted: April 14, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Henderson, M. Todd and Wolfers, Justin and Zitzewitz, Eric, Predicting Crime (April 2008). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 402. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1118931 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1118931

Contact Information

M. Todd Henderson (Contact Author)
University of Chicago - Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-4168 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)
Justin Wolfers
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )
611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2447 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan ( email )
735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-615-6846 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
The Brookings Institution ( email )
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/en/webcontent/personnel/photos/index_html?key=1737
Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://www.cepr.org/researchers/details/rschcontact.asp?IDENT=157943
CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )
Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany
Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )
P.O. Box 4309
Kiel, D-24100
Germany
Eric W. Zitzewitz
Dartmouth College ( email )
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2891 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ericz
NBER ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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