Immigration, Employment Opportunities, and Criminal Behavior

WP 2015-2.0

Authors: Matthew Freedman, Emily Owens, Sarah Bohn


We take advantage of provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which granted legal resident status to long-time unauthorized residents but created new obstacles to employment for more recent immigrants, to explore how employment opportunities affect criminal behavior. Exploiting administrative data on the criminal justice involvement of individuals in San Antonio, Texas and using a difference-indiffereneces strategy, we find evidence of an increase in felony charges filed against residents most likely to be affected by IRCA's employment regulations. Our results suggest a strong relationship between access to legal jobs and criminal behavior.

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