Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act

46 Pages Posted: 4 May 2011 Last revised: 1 Aug 2014

Date Written: July 28, 2014

Abstract

I examine the effects that the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which legalized almost 3 million immigrants, had on crime in the United States. I exploit the IRCA's quasi-random timing as well as geographic variation in the intensity of treatment to isolate causal impacts. I find decreases in crime of 2%-6%, primarily due to decline in property crimes, equivalent to 80,000-240,000 fewer violent and property crimes committed each year due to legalization. I calibrate a labor market model of crime, finding that much of the drop in crime can be explained by greater labor market opportunities among applicants.

Keywords: Immigration, Crime, Policy, Amnesty, Legalization, Legal Status

JEL Classification: F22, J22, J61, K37, K42

Suggested Citation

Baker, Scott R., Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (July 28, 2014). Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 412. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1829368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1829368

Scott R. Baker (Contact Author)

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Department of Finance ( email )

Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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