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Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime

Steven D. Levitt
The American Economic Review
Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jun., 1997), pp. 270-290
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2951346
Page Count: 21
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Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime
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Abstract

Previous empirical studies have uncovered little evidence that police reduce crime, possibly due to simultaneity problems. This paper uses the timing of mayoral and gubernatorial elections as an instrumental variable to identify a causal effect of police on crime. Increases in the size of police forces are shown to be disproportionately concentrated in mayoral and gubernatorial election years. Increases in police are shown to substantially reduce violent crime, but have a smaller impact on property crime. The null hypothesis that the marginal social benefit of reduced crime equals the costs of hiring additional police cannot be rejected.

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