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Essays in Crime and Behavior

  • Author(s): Porter, Andrew Joseph
  • Advisor(s): Bitler, Marianne
  • et al.

This dissertation is composed of three chapters that contribute to the fields of Public Economics, Law and Economics, Labor Economics, and Behavioral Economics.

In chapter one, I show that public institutions such as libraries, schools, and shelters create crime spillover effects by attracting victims, witnesses and incapacitating criminals. This paper is the first to estimate the causal impact of public institutions on local crime rates. These crime effects are identified by exploiting exogenous variation in the hours of the Los Angeles Public Library. I find increasing hours of public institutions decreases non-gang related aggravated assault rates and car burglary rates nearby. Public institutions reduce crime by attracting patrons that act as witnesses against car burglary, and by keeping potential aggravated assault victims or aggressors occupied in a safe environment.

In chapter two, I exploited variation in the Google Fiber internet roll out in Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri to estimate the impact of internet availability on crime. Google Fiber preregistration rates by neighborhood were used as a proxy of demand for internet services; a novel control in studies of internet effects. Young men commit crimes and are victimized at high rates compared to other demographic groups. If the internet is an attractive use of time for young men, the opportunity cost of criminally risky activities would be higher for victims and criminals, which could cause a decrease in the crime rate. No effects of increased internet availability on crime were found. This finding may suggest a temporal displacement of crime from increased internet availability.

In chapter three, I present experimental results examining valuations of prizes in different contexts: winners of solo and group competitions, the losers of these competitions, and random assignment. Subjects are found to expend the same effort on average in the group and solo competitions. Relative to random assignment, I find prize valuations rise for winners and fall for losers once competition is introduced. Competition losers value the prize the lowest, nearly fifty percent of its retail value, compared to ninety percent for winners. Within competitions, I find no effects of group versus solo structure on valuation.

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