Analyzing the Impact of the World's Largest Public Works Project on Crime

Satadru Das, Naci Mocan

NBER Working Paper No. 22499
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Law and Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

India started the implementation of a rural public works program in 2006, covering all districts of the country within three years. The program quarantees 100 days of employment per year at minimum wage to each rural household on demand, with the goal of reducing joblessness and poverty. We exploit the design and implementation of this program to investigate its employment impact on various types of crimes, ranging from burglary to kidnapping to riots. We show that the program acts as an insurance scheme because an increase in rainfall, which is negatively correlated with agricultural production, lowers the demand for jobs under the program. Controlling for rainfall, we find that employment generated by the program has a negative impact on both property and violent crime. Although crime elasticities with respect to employment are small, this finding represents another dimension of the social benefit generated by the program.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22499

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