Effects of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act on Crime
Scott R. Baker
Stanford University - Department of Economics
May 2, 2011
Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 412
In the late 1970's, rates of illegal immigration into the United States increased dramatically. This increase led to pressure on the federal government to find some way of dealing with the immigrants, culminating in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This paper seeks to examine the effects that the 1986 IRCA, which legalized over 2.5 million illegal aliens, had on the commission of crime in the United States. I find evidence that IRCA applicants are associated with higher crime rates prior to legalization and that, subsequent to legalization, this association disappears. I find drops in crime of approximately 1%-4% associated with one percent of the population being legalized, primarily due to a drop in property crimes. This fall in crime is equivalent to 80,000-320,000 fewer crimes committed each year due to legalization. Finally, I calibrate a labor market model of crime using empirical wage and employment data and find that much of the drop in crime can be attributed to greater job market opportunities among those legalized by the IRCA.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 70
Keywords: Immigration, Crime, Policy, Amnesty, Legalization
JEL Classification: F22, J22, K42, J61working papers series
Date posted: May 4, 2011
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