Gang Rule: Understanding and Countering Criminal Governance

72 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2021 Last revised: 7 Oct 2021

See all articles by Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Gustavo Duncan

Universidad EAFIT

Benjamin Lessing

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Santiago Tobon

Universidad EAFIT

Date Written: February 2021

Abstract

Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection causes gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.

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Suggested Citation

Blattman, Christopher and Duncan, Gustavo and Lessing, Benjamin and Tobon, Santiago, Gang Rule: Understanding and Countering Criminal Governance (February 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28458, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3785793

Christopher Blattman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Gustavo Duncan

Universidad EAFIT

Carrera 49 N° 7 sur – 50
Bogotá, 00000
Colombia

Benjamin Lessing

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Santiago Tobon

Universidad EAFIT ( email )

Carrera 49 No. 7 South - 50
Bogota
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://www.santiagotobon.co

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