Inter-American Seminar on Economics

The NBER and the Universidad Torcuato di Tella (UTDT) in Buenos Aires, Argentina jointly sponsored this year's Inter-American Seminar on Economics on "Crime, Institutions, and Policies." The conference took place in Buenos Aires on November 29 and 30. The organizers were: Sebastian Edwards, University of California, Los Angeles and NBER; Rafael Di Tella, Harvard Business School and NBER; and Ernesto Schargrodsky, UTDT. They chose these papers for discussion:

Naci Mocan, Louisiana State University and NBER, and Kaj Gittings, Cornell University, "The Impact of Incentives on Human Behavior: Can We Make it Disappear? The Case of the Death Penalty"

Comments: Lucia Quesada, UTDT

Joao M. P. De Mello, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and Alexandre Schneider, Secretary of Education for the city of Sao Paulo, "Age Structure Explaining a Large Shift in Homicides: the Case of the State of Sao Paulo"

Comments: Lucas Llach, UTDT

Brendan O'Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi, Columbia University, "Peaceable Kingdoms and War Zones: Preemption, Ballistics, and Murder in Newark"

Comments: Guitlermo Cruces,


Ana Maria Ibanez and Andres Moya, Universidad de los Andes, "Do Conflicts Create Poverty Traps? Asset Losses and Recovery for Displaced Households in Colombia"

Comments: Martin Gonzalez Rozada, UTDT

Radha Iyengar, Harvard University and NBER, "Does the Certainty of Arrest Reduce Domestic Violence? Evidence from Mandatory and Recommended Arrest Laws"

Comments: Rafael Di Tella

Ernesto Schargrodsky and Rafael Di Tella, "Electronic Monitoring of Inmates"

Comments: Nestor Gandelman, Universidad ORT Uruguay

Angela K. Dills, Mercer University; Garret Summers, Harvard University; and Jeffrey A. Miron, Harvard University and NBER, "What Do Economists Know about Crime?"

Comments: Sebastian Edwards

Carlos Medina and Leonardo Morales, Banco de la Republica de Colombia; Alejandro Gaviria, Universidad de los Andes; and Jairo Nunez, Centro Nacional de Consultoria, "The Cost of Avoiding Crime: the Case of Bogota"

Comments: Alfredo Canavese, UTDT

Mirko Draca, London School of Economics; Stephen Machin, London School of Economics; and Robert Witt, University of Surrey, "Panic on the Streets of London: Police, Crime, and the July 2005 Terror Attacks"

Comments: Catherine Rodriguez, Universidad de los Andes

Maria Laura Alzua, IERAL-Fundacion Mediterranea; Catherine Rodriguez; and Edgar Villa, Universidad del Externado, "The Effect of Education on In-jail Conflict"

Comments: Andres Borenstein, British Embassy Buenos Aires

Sheng-Wen Chang, National Chengchi University; N. Edward Coulson, Penn State University; and Ping Wang, Washington University in St. Louis and NBER, "A Quantitative Study of Optimal Drug Policy in Low Income Neighborhoods"

Comments: Federico Weinschelbaum, UdeSA

Rodrigo R. Soares, University of Maryland and NBER, and Joana Naritomi, World Bank, "Understanding High Crime Rates in Latin America: the Role of Social and Policy Factors"

Comments: Alejandro Gaviria, Universidad de los Andes

Although decades of empirical research has demonstrated that criminal behavior responds to incentives, non-economists frequently express the belief that human beings are not rational enough to make calculated decisions about the costs and benefits of engaging in crime--therefore, they a priori draw the conclusion that criminal activity cannot be altered by incentives. However, scientific research should not be driven by personal beliefs. Whether economic conditions matter, or deterrence measures--such as police, arrests, prison deaths, executions, and commutations--provide signals to people is an empirical question, which should be guided by a solid theoretical framework.

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