Clicking on Heaven's Door: The Effect of Immigrant Legalization on Crime
47 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014 Last revised: 23 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 2014
We estimate the effect of legal status on the number of crimes committed by immigrants in the destination country, exploiting the Italian policy framework as an ideal regression discontinuity design: fixed quotas of residence permits are available each year, applications must be submitted electronically on specific "Click Days" and are processed on a first-come, first-served basis until the available quotas are exhausted. By matching data on applicants - including the timing of the application in milliseconds - with restricted-use police files, we find that obtaining legal status reduces the number of serious crimes committed in the following year from 2.9 to 1.2 per 100 applicants. The effect is greater on economic crimes, in regions offering better economic opportunities to legal immigrants, and under weak enforcement of migration restrictions. These findings are consistent with the predictions of a simple model of crime.
Keywords: legal status, crime, regression discontinuity design
JEL Classification: J61, K37, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation