The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over 2 billion people in the world affected by lockdowns. This has significant socioeconomic implications, especially in areas such as crime, where police resources are diverted from crime prevention towards enforcing lockdowns. This study analyzes the effect of lockdowns and their severity on crime and violence against women in India. A sharp regression discontinuity design is implemented harnessing the sudden introduction of a state-wide lockdown and novel high-frequency criminal case data. The results show a sharp decrease in aggregate crime produced by the lockdown. Over 60 per cent reductions are observed in diverse types of crimes such as murder, theft, and crimes against women, among others. This seems to be driven by the higher search costs faced by criminals. Finally, by exploiting geographic variation in terms of lockdowns' severity across districts, this study shows that relaxing lockdowns' initial restrictions increase crime, but the increment is lower in less restrictive lockdowns than in restrictive ones. While economically-motivated crimes increased, violent crimes were not impacted. This suggests that the economic downturn produced by the lockdown might be driving these effects.
An independent and impartial judicial system is essential for a well-functioning democracy and the economy. Despite constitutional guarantees, elected politicians may substantially influence the legal system. I study whether politicians in power get special treatment in courts when facing criminal accusations. This paper is the first to provide causal evidence of the impact of winning office on a diverse range of criminal cases. I construct a unique panel of over 1,300 criminal cases for candidates for state legislative assemblies in India from 2004 to 2013. Using a regression discontinuity design, I compare the probability of a pending criminal case being closed without conviction at the end of a legislature for politicians who marginally won the election against those who marginally lost it. This paper uncovers significant opposite effects of winning office, depending on the political alignment with the state ruling party. Winners from the state ruling party are 17 percent more likely to get their pending criminal cases closed without conviction during their period in office. In contrast, winners from other parties are 15 percent less likely to get their pending cases closed without conviction during the same time-frame. The result suggests the misuse of attributions vested on those in power within the executive to manipulate the career of legal officials. I find evidence of manipulation of cases in states with judicial capacity constraints, and only non-serious criminal cases are subject to political manipulation, whereas serious cases are not.
Reputation shocks and strategic reaction in electoral campaigns
This paper studies effort provision in asymmetric contests when beneficial and detrimental information shocks affect the strongest contestant's reputation. I focus on electoral campaigns as a theoretical and empirical application. A campaign spending model predicts that a beneficial (detrimental) shock on the incumbent's reputation decreases (increases) the incumbent's and challenger's spending effort as the contest becomes more uneven (even). To test these predictions, I use Brazilian mayoral elections and random municipal audits as a source for reputation shocks. Leveraging on the random nature of the audits, I obtain a causal estimate by comparing candidates' campaign spending in municipalities affected by the information before the elections against those affected after the election, conditional on the reputational shock. The results are consistent with a discouragement effect of the incumbent's beneficial reputation shocks and a competitive effect of detrimental shocks. On average, beneficial reputation shocks decrease the incumbent's and challenger's spending by 26 and 10 per cent, respectively, while detrimental shocks increase them by 17 and 27 per cent, respectively. Moreover, beneficial (detrimental) reputations shocks induce incumbents to reduce (increase) the amount of beneficiaries of conditional cash transfer programs, but no effects are found for public employment. The incumbent's response on campaign expenditure seems to partially compensate the detrimental (beneficial) effect of reputation shocks on electoral outcomes.
This paper introduces a two-stage contest model with reference-dependent preferences to study the determinants of conflict and its intensity. I show the existence of a Subgame Perfect Nash equilibrium in pure strategies, and characterize the properties of the equilibrium. The model shows that reference points play a crucial role in the decision of waging war, and in the level of intensity of the conflict. The model delivers predictions in line with the evidence, and explains empirical regularities that previous models cannot account for. The model encompasses two of the most common empirical patterns found in the conflict literature. Conflicts are more likely to occur after negative income shocks due to the current situation being perceived as a loss compared to agents' reference points. Additionally, income reduces the odds of conflict if agents are more risk-averse for gains than risk-seeker for losses.
The Great Lockdown and criminal activity - Evidence from Bihar, India , CEPR COVID Economics, 2020, 1(29): 141-163.
Equilibrium with limited-recourse collateralized loans (2013) with J.P. Torres-Martínez, Economic Theory, 53: 181.