Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation consists of three chapters.

The first chapter analyzes the impact of sanctuary policies on criminal behavior. Sanctuary policies may attract criminals and lower the opportunity cost of crime, while these policies produce a spiral of trust that supports police and raises informal social control over crime. I estimate the dynamic effects of sanctuary policies on crime rates at city level. This chapter finds (1) no evidence that sanctuary policies cause an increase in any crime, (2) some evidence that they may lead to a decrease in property crime, and the effect is strengthened over time after the adoption, (3) the increased trust between residents and police is likely the reason for the negative effect.

The second chapter analyzes the relationship between visitation experience and recidivism outcomes. Visitation in prison is associated with a low recidivism rate after release. However, in the literature, it is not clear whether visitation has a causal effect. This chapter tries to estimate the effect of visitation experience on the recidivism outcome of state prisoners in Missouri, using an instrumental variable approach. The instrumental variable used for identification is the distance from a prison to an address before incarceration, since prisoners are less likely to be visited when they are assigned to prisons far from home. The results support that visitation has a causal effect on recidivism. The visitation effect within one year is robust to different samples, control variables, and specifications, but becomes ambiguous after one year. Hence, the key difference from other studies is the timing of the measured recidivism outcome. Moreover, visitation improves employment outcomes; therefore, employment is an important channel of the visitation effect. However, no discernible effect on housing stability is found.

The third chapter analyzes the relationship between health conditions and criminal behavior. Health has a significant impact on labor market outcomes, and thus on criminal decisions. We document that better health is associated with a lower probability of committing a crime. To study the economic mechanism behind this finding, we build an equilibrium search model of health, crime, and the labor market. We perform policy experiments in the model and study their impacts on crime and the labor market. The calibrated model shows that by introducing Medicare-for-all, the economy's crime rate would decrease by one percentage point while the aggregate output would increase by more than 10%.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Ian Fillmore

Committee Members

Marcus Berliant, Sanghmitra Gautam, George-Levi Gayle, Robert Pollak,