More Sneezing, Less Crime? Seasonal Allergies, Transitory Costs and the Market for Offenses
41 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 18, 2018
The neoclassical economic model of crime envisions crime as a gamble undertaken by a rational individual who is weighing the costs and benefits of offending at the margin. A large literature estimates the sensitivity of crime to policy inputs that shift the cost of offending such as police and prisons. In this paper, we point out that participants in the market for offenses also respond to transitory changes in situational factors and that these are in constant flux. We consider the responsiveness of crime to a pervasive and common health shock which we argue shifts costs and benefits for offenders and victims: seasonal allergies. Leveraging daily variation in city-specific pollen counts, we present novel evidence that violent crime declines in U.S. cities on days in which the local pollen count is unusually high and that these effects are driven by residential violence. While past literature suggests that property crimes have more instrumental motives, require planning, and hence are particularly sensitive to permanent changes in the cost and benefits of crime, we find evidence that violence may be especially sensitive to situational factors.
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