'Migration restrictions and criminal behavior: evidence from a natural experiment' (joint with Giovanni Mastrobuoni)
We estimate the causal effect of immigrants' legal status on criminal behavior exploiting exogenous variation in migration restrictions across nationalities driven by the last round of the European Union enlargement. Unique individual-level data on a collective clemency bill enacted in Italy five months before the enlargement allow us to compare the post-release criminal record of immigrants from newly admitted countries with several control groups of pardoned inmates from other countries. Difference-in-differences in the hazard rate of rearrest between members of the two groups before and after the enlargement show that obtaining legal status lowers recidivism, particularly so for non-violent offenders and in areas that provide relatively better labor market opportunities to legal immigrants. We conclude that legal status reduces crime by raising its opportunity cost.