An Empirical Evaluation of the Impact of New York's Bail Reform on Crime Using Synthetic Controls

64 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Angela Zhou

Angela Zhou

University of California, Berkeley

Andrew Koo

Cornell University

Nathan Kallus

Cornell University - Cornell Tech NYC

Rene Ropac

NYC Criminal Justice Agency

Richard Peterson

NYC Criminal Justice Agency

Stephen Koppel

NYC Criminal Justice Agency

Tiffany Bergin

NYC Criminal Justice Agency

Date Written: November 15, 2021

Abstract

We conduct an empirical evaluation of the impact of New York's bail reform on crime. New York State's Bail Elimination Act went into effect on January 1, 2020, eliminating money bail and pretrial detention for nearly all misdemeanor and nonviolent felony defendants. Our analysis of effects on aggregate crime rates after the reform informs the understanding of bail reform and general deterrence. We conduct a synthetic control analysis for a comparative case study of impact of bail reform. We focus on synthetic control analysis of post-intervention changes in crime for assault, theft, burglary, robbery, and drug crimes, constructing a dataset from publicly reported crime data of 27 large municipalities. Our findings, including placebo checks and other robustness checks, show that for assault, theft, and drug crimes, there is no significant impact of bail reform on crime; for burglary and robbery, we similarly have null findings but the synthetic control is also more variable so these are deemed less conclusive.

Keywords: impact evaluation, bail reform, criminal justice reform, law and economics, applied econometrics

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Zhou, Angela and Koo, Andrew and Kallus, Nathan and Ropac, Rene and Peterson, Richard and Koppel, Stephen and Bergin, Tiffany, An Empirical Evaluation of the Impact of New York's Bail Reform on Crime Using Synthetic Controls (November 15, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3964067 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3964067

Angela Zhou (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Andrew Koo

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Nathan Kallus

Cornell University - Cornell Tech NYC ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

Rene Ropac

NYC Criminal Justice Agency ( email )

New York, NY

Richard Peterson

NYC Criminal Justice Agency

New York, NY

Stephen Koppel

NYC Criminal Justice Agency ( email )

New York, NY

Tiffany Bergin

NYC Criminal Justice Agency ( email )

New York, NY

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