Three Empirical Essays on Crime

James Freeman

Advisor: Alex T Tabarrok, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Robin Hanson, Noel Johnson

Online Location, Online
April 15, 2022, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


US Federal and State laws aimed at combating sex crimes have evolved significantly and become increasingly severe over the past 30 years.  These include federal laws mandating that states create online registries for tracking and notifying the public of the addresses and identities of sex offenders and state laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences for sex crimes.  In this dissertation I analyze these laws and their effects from an economic perspective.   

Chapter One uses updated data and new statistical methods to analyze the effectiveness of sex offender registration and notification in controlling sex crimes, focusing on the impact of new policies, including the 2006 Adam Walsh Act (AWA).  I find evidence that sex offender registration and notification have a lagged negative effect on sex crime rates.  However, I also find pitfalls of sex offender registration and notification, including evidence that registrants substitute strangers for victims known to them and the conviction-based approach to determining inclusion in registries mandated by the AWA has the perverse effect of making registries less effective at controlling sex crimes.  

Chapter Two analyzes the effectiveness of Jessica’s Law, a state law establishing mandatory minimum sentences for child sexual assault and electronic monitoring of sex offenders enacted in different states at different times.  I find no support for the law’s effectiveness in controlling sex crimes but find evidence that the age thresholds for the imposition of the mandatory minimum sentences caused offenders to substitute adults for child victims.  

Chapter Three provides evidence that the severity of sex crime laws is negatively correlated with the level of treatment provided to sex offenders across states and examines the econometric implications of this negative relationship and the economic and political factors causing policymakers to prefer either treatment or more severe crime laws in combating crime.