Jurisdiction, Crime, and Development: The Impact of Public Law 280 in Indian Country
Valentina P. Dimitrova-Grajzl
Virginia Military Institute
Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics; CESifo
A. Joseph Guse
Washington and Lee University - Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics
April 1, 2013
Public Law 280 transferred jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters from the federal to state governments in selected parts of Indian country. Where enacted, the law fundamentally altered the pre-existing legal order. Public Law 280 thus provides a unique opportunity to study the impact of legal institutions and their change on socio-economic outcomes. The law's controversial content has attracted interest from legal scholars. However, empirical studies of its impact are scarce and do not address the law's endogenous nature. We examine the law's impact on crime and on economic development in U.S. counties with significant American Indian reservation population. To address the issue of selection of areas subject to Public Law 280, our empirical strategy draws on the law's politico-historical context. We find that the application of Public Law 280 increased crime and lowered incomes. The law's adverse impact is robust and noteworthy in magnitude.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 59
Keywords: Public Law 280, jurisdiction, crime, economic development, Indian country
JEL Classification: H10, K42, O17, P48
Date posted: June 26, 2012 ; Last revised: April 2, 2013
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