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Buonanno, P., Montolio, D., Vanin, P. (2009). Does social capital reduce crime? Journal of Law and Economics 52(1), 145-170

We investigate the effects of civic norms and associational networks on crime rates. Civic norms may attach guilt and shame to criminal behavior, thus increasing its opportunity cost. Associational networks may increase returns to noncriminal activities and raise detection probabilities, but they may also work as communication channels for criminals and may offer official cover to criminal activities. The empirical assessment of these effects poses serious problems of endogeneity, omitted variables, measurement error, and spatial correlation. Italy’s great variance in social and economic characteristics, its homogeneity in policies and institutions, and the availability of historical data on social capital in its regions allow us to minimize the first two problems. To tackle the last two problems, we use report-rate-adjusted crime rates and estimate a spatial lag model. We find that both civic norms and associational networks have a negative and significant effect on property crimes across Italian provinces.


Buonanno, Paolo

I am assistant professor in the Department of Economics "Hyman P. Minsky" at the University of Bergamo. I obtained my PhD in Economics at the University of Milan-Bicocca in 2003 with a thesis on education and crime. I also studied at the University of California at Berkeley where I was a...

Montolio, Daniel

Vanin, Paolo

Journal articles Crime and Social Sanction (with P. Buonanno and G. Pasini), Papers in Regional Science, in press Trade Protection and Industrial Structure (with F. Albornoz), The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 10(1) (Topics), 2010, Article 57 Does Social Capital...

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