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Summary of Week 5

This week, we saw how crime may be influenced by policy measures other than police and prison.

Government policies on public education and alcohol use regulation can have important consequences on the affected individuals’ criminal risks. Private protection measures can substantially reduce the risk of crime victimization, and having high-risk peers may adversely influence own criminal risk through spillover effects.

In establishing the causal effects of education, alcohol consumption, private protection, and high-risk peers, economists used many clever identifying variations that enable them to credibly interpret their results as the causal effect of interest. For example, the difference in offending rates between individuals who are just below and above age 21 can be viewed as the causal effect of alcohol consumption on crime because the two groups should be highly comparable on average, except the eligibility to consume alcoholic beverages.

Many of us have strong opinions and predictions on crimes and criminals. This week, you were asked to come up with an original research question and provide a detailed description of how you would investigate your question using actual data. A good empirical research requires an important and interesting research question, high-quality data, and a good empirical strategy that can credibly capture the causal relationship of interest. Now that we have seen a series of good, rigorous empirical research papers, I believe you are ready to produce one on your own.

So far, we have seen many examples in which economists investigated the causal relationship of interest without using a randomized experiment. Although the research value of a good randomized experiment has been well-known for several decades, running such an experiment related to public safety is often infeasible. However, over the past years we have seen a growing use of randomized policy experiments by researchers and policymakers, and we will learn about findings from some of the most influential policy experiments that took place in recent years.

See you next week.

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Economics of Crime

Hanyang University

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