“Does ‘Green Gold’ Breed Bloody Violence? The Effect of Export Shocks on Criminal Violence in Mexico”

Social Science Quarterly 103 (2022): 1048-1060.

Do positive export shocks fuel or dampen criminal violence? Current scholarship suggests two relevant effects: Predation effect and opportunity cost effect. Based on these competing theoretical frameworks, I examine this question by analyzing the avocado industry in Mexico, which allows us to test both theories. Exploiting the exogenous variation in avocado production driven by climate shocks, I find that the positive shocks on avocado production lower homicide rates in Mexico, which supports the opportunity cost effect. Moving from the lowest to the highest level of monthly avocado production, this positive shock reduces the homicide rate by 0.65 per hundred thousand relative to the average monthly homicide rate of 2.02. This finding suggests that the opportunity cost effect is largely at play in the avocado-growing Mexican states, showing a new context of theory application. This study highlights the necessity for a careful understanding of the context and mechanism testing.

Working Papers

“A Model of State-Crime Relations: Theory” (manuscript available upon request)

Governments have various approaches to dealing with organized crime, ranging from aggressive crackdowns to passive tolerance and even collaboration. When does a government tolerate or even collaborate with organized crime groups, and when does it not? To answer this question, I develop a formal model that highlights the interdependence among the national government, organized crime groups (OCGs), and the community. I propose that the “illicit benefit” that ordinary citizens derive from the presence of OCGs is a key factor in determining the intensity of criminal violence and the government’s response. When citizens benefit more from OCGs’ businesses and social services, OCGs are more likely to reduce violence in order to secure citizens’ support and increase their chances of survival. This reduction in violence may then perpetuate the collusion between the OCG and the government. I present a case study of the Shanghai Green Gang and the Japanese Yakuza that support these predictions.

“Gray Stakeholders in Criminal Business: How Mafia-Infiltrated Economy Affects Crime and Politics”

Conventional wisdom is that criminal organizations would fight harder as the potential profit increases. Contrary to this belief, I argue that an increase in profit may lead to a reduction in violent crime when ordinary citizens are involved in the criminal organization’s economic activities. I test this argument using the case of the Canadian construction sector, which is known to be mafia-infiltrated. Using building permit data and the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, I demonstrate that the improvement in the performance of the mafia-infiltrated economy is linked to a decrease in violent crime, particularly in areas where the mafia is active. Specifically, my findings reveal that a one percent increase in building permits is associated with 25.82 fewer violent crime cases in the mafia-present areas, accounting for 3 percent of the average violent crime rate.

“For Whom Terror Works” (with Andrew J. Coe and Peter Schram)

Empirical studies have shown that terrorists’ policy goals are rarely achieved, leading some to conclude that terrorism doesn’t work. We theorize that terrorism works, but for its supporters rather than for the terrorists themselves. Because supporters are willing to contribute resources to a terrorist organization, thereby increasing the terrorist organization’s ability to launch attacks, this will coerce the targeted government to revise its policies in accordance with the supporters’ preferences. Targeted governments respond with concessions in order to erode support and thereby render the terrorists easier to defeat. Support can be rational even when, as is empirically likely, supporters’ ideal policies are closer to those of the government than to those of the terrorists. We examine six campaigns generally regarded as unambiguous failures of terrorism. For each, we show that governments made concessions that placated the supporters but not the terrorists, and that this was followed by successful suppression of the weakened terrorists.