Reducing Crime and Violence: Experimental Evidence from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Liberia
119 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2015 Last revised: 25 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 18, 2016
We show that a number of “noncognitive” skills and preferences, including patience and identity, are malleable in adults, and that investments in them reduce crime and violence. We recruited criminally-engaged men and randomized half to eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to foster self-regulation, patience, and a noncriminal identity and lifestyle. We also randomized $200 grants. Cash alone and therapy alone initially reduced crime and violence, but effects dissipated over time. When cash followed therapy, crime and violence decreased dramatically for at least a year. We hypothesize that cash reinforced therapy’s impacts by prolonging learning-by-doing, lifestyle changes, and self-investment.
Keywords: noncognitive skills, crime, violence, poverty, cash transfers, field experiment, Liberia, rehabilitation, self control, social identity
JEL Classification: O12, J22, K42, D03
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation