Write a reading response from the article below:
Can Education Reduce Violent Crime? Evidence from Mexico before and after the Drug War Onset
Does education decrease homicide and improve individual security? This is a question with significant policy relevance as many developing countries have suffered from high rates of homicide over the past decades, with profound negative externalities on human and economic development (WB, 2017). Moreover, if advances in school attendance lower crime rates, then improving access to education provides a possible avenue to enhance individual security, and a reduction in crime can be an important byproduct of government efforts to expand education.
Existing theories highlight plausible reasons for why education can decrease crime: school attendance rises the opportunity costs of crime and dissuades participation in criminal activity (e.g. Ehrlich, 1975), it reduces the availability of time to get involved in criminal activity (e.g. Lochner, 2004), and it strengthens informal constraints that prevent potential offenders from committing a crime (e.g. Hirschi, 1969). Despite the relevance of this literature, however, there is a lack of systematic research on the link between education and crime in developing countries. Previous studies on the subject largely focus on advanced democracies, without considering whether the effects of education policy and schooling on crime also extend to developing countries (e.g. Jacob & Lefgren, 2003; Lochner & Moretti, 2004; Machin, Marie, & VujiÄ‡, 2011; see also Juaraez, Urdal, & Vadlamannati, 2020). The few studies focusing on developing countries show mixed results. Some suggest that education decreases violent crime (e.g. Fajnzylber, Lederman, & Loayza, 2002a; Rivera, 2016), while others find no effect (e.g. Fajnzylber, Lederman, & Loayza, 2002b; Kim & Pridemore, 2005).
To examine the effect of education on homicide, we exploit a compulsory schooling law at the secondary level introduced in Mexico in 1993. This law was implemented by the hegemonic one-party regime to promote development and economic integration, and provides an independent increase in enrolment rates in secondary and tertiary schools not likely to be correlated with other factors influencing homicide. Taking advantage of the raise in education following the reform, we employ different empirical strategies to assess the effect of education on homicide rates. Since the compulsory schooling reform was national and implemented in all Mexican states, our empirical estimates identify the size of the cohort treated by the reform and the growth in the number of secondary schools. This approach strengthens our main results by allowing us to capture exogenous variation over time and across units.
2. The decline in homicide before the drug war onset
The outbreak of the Mexican Drug War has gained considerable attention from academics and policy makers (see Shirk & Wallman, 2015). This is not surprising, given the magnitude and brutality of drug-related violence. Moreover, the wave of violence came after Mexicoâ€™s transition to democracy in 2000 and seems to run counter to common arguments relating democracy to lower crime (e.g. Eisner, 2003). In our view, however, it is rather striking that previous studies largely ignored why violent crime declined sharply before the drug war.
Even more surprising is the scale of the reduction, as half of the states experienced a decline in homicide rates of more than 50 per cent; two thirds of all states experienced a reduction of at least 30 per cent between 1992 and 2006. The rightmost column presents the homicide rate average over the period 2007â€“2015. Violence has tended to be concentrated in seven states, which account for nearly 54 per cent of all homicides (i.e. Chihuahua, Baja California, Guerrero, Estado de MÃ©xico, Jalisco, Nuevo LeÃ³n, and Sinaloa). These figures show how drug-related violence has been largely confined to a handful of states and not engulfed the entire country, as sometimes implied by descriptions of Mexico as a case of â€˜state failureâ€™ (e.g. Carpenter, 2015). In brief, we see divergent trends in homicide within Mexico that resemble the spatial concentration of violence in many countries with ongoing civil wars (Cederman & Gleditsch, 2009).
What thus explains the general and steady decline in homicide before the drug war? Leading theories examine crime as a function of criminal-justice systems and legitimate labour market opportunities (Chalfin & McCrary, 2017). Although we do not dismiss the relevance of these factors, we believe that neither the criminal-justice system nor labour market opportunities can offer a satisfactory explanation for the large, widespread, and sustained decline in homicide before the drug war. Indeed, ineffectiveness and corruption have been persistent and widespread in Mexicoâ€™s criminal-justice system and are generally considered a main cause of the stateâ€™s lack of capacity to deter, prosecute, and punish criminal activity (Shirk, 2010). The decline in homicide appears to have taken place in spite of the weakness of the judicial system, suggesting that law enforcement policies cannot account for the large reduction in homicide. Similarly, it seems unlikely that favourable economic conditions could account for such a decline since Mexico experienced economic crises in 1994 and 2001, with severe consequences for employment and sustained low economic growth while homicide rates were falling steadily. In this article, we argue that the homicide decline at least in part can be attributed to the expansion of secondary and tertiary education across the country.
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