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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Richard Rosenfeld

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Working Papers

March 2014Less Cash, Less Crime: Evidence from the Electronic Benefit Transfer Program
with Richard Wright, Erdal Tekin, Volkan Topalli, Chandler McClellan, Timothy Dickinson: w19996
It has been long recognized that cash plays a critical role in fueling street crime due to its liquidity and transactional anonymity. In poor neighborhoods where street offenses are concentrated, a significant source of circulating cash stems from public assistance or welfare payments. In the 1990s, the Federal government mandated individual states to convert the delivery of their welfare benefits from paper checks to an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, whereby recipients received and expended their funds through debit cards. In this paper, we examine whether the reduction in the circulation of cash on the streets associated with EBT implementation had an effect on crime. To address this question, we exploit the variation in the timing of the EBT implementation across Missouri cou...

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