Immigrants' Legal Status and the Opportunity Cost of Crime: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
Early Career Research Award
Concerns about the effect of immigration on crime are widespread. Tighter quotas on legal migration can increase the number of illegal immigrants and prevent access to legitimate earnings opportunities, which in turn lowers the opportunity cost of crime. The decision about whether to reside legally or illegally in the destination country may respond to several (possibly unobserved) individual characteristics that are also correlated with criminal behavior. Additionally, the size of the illegal immigrant population is not reported in official statistics, so their crime rate remains also unobserved. This research will address these issues by using exogenous variation in legal status provided by the last round of the European Union (EU) enlargement and detailed longitudinal information on a sample of undocumented immigrants in Italy.