The Market for Mules: Risk and Compensation of Cross-Border Drug Couriers
Caleb E. Mason
Brown White & Newhouse LLP
Claremont Colleges - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
July 7, 2011
This paper uses a unique dataset collected directly from the probable cause narratives filed by federal agents in arrests of individuals caught smuggling drugs though the U.S.-Mexico border to shed light on the cross-border smuggling of drugs from Mexico into the United States. In addition to describing the characteristics of the loads being smuggled into the U.S., we analyze the pay apprehended mules report for attempting to carry their loads across the border to determine whether market forces create a wage premium for differential sentencing risk. Our results reveal that while there is a good deal of unexplained variation in compensation, mules generally appear to be paid compensating wage differentials for loads that carry a higher sentencing risk if detected and for loads that carry an arguably higher likelihood of detection. Our data also reveal that compensation does not appear to be strongly tied to other characteristics of the mule such as gender or citizenship.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: drug trafficking
Date posted: July 9, 2011 ; Last revised: August 14, 2012
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