Social Closure, Surnames and Crime

Quaderni - Working Paper DSE N° 1032

25 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2015

See all articles by Paolo Buonanno

Paolo Buonanno

University of Bergamo

Paolo Vanin

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 5, 2015


This paper studies the effect of social closure on crime and tax evasion rates using disaggregated data for Italian municipalities. It measures the degree of social openness of a community by the diversity of its surname distribution, which reflects the history of migration and inbreeding. It shows that, all else equal, communities with a history of social closure have lower crime rates and higher tax evasion rates than more open communities. The effect of social closure is likely to be causal, it is relevant in magnitude, statistically significant, and robust to changes in the set of included controls, in the specific measures of dependent and independent variables, in the specification of the regression equation, and in the possible sample splits. Our findings are consistent with the idea that social closure strengthens social sanctions and social control, thus leading to more cooperative outcomes in local interactions, but it reduces cooperation on a larger scale.

Keywords: Social Closure, Surname Distribution, Crime

JEL Classification: A14, K42, Z13

Suggested Citation

Buonanno, Paolo and Vanin, Paolo, Social Closure, Surnames and Crime (October 5, 2015). Quaderni - Working Paper DSE N° 1032, Available at SSRN: or

Paolo Vanin

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

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