Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business

First Advisor

Jason DeBacker


I examine the effects of three different policies on crime related outcomes. First, I consider whether access to mental health care effects crime rates. In particular, I consider whether the effect on arrest rates of increasing access to mental health care for those that already have private insurance by exploiting the state and time variation in the adoption of mental health parity mandates. I find no evidence to suggest that even the most far-reaching of these mandates are effective at curbing crime. I also follow up on prior studies, applying this approach to determine the effect on suicide rates. I similarly find no change in suicide rates as a result of expansions in mental health care access.

Second, I examine whether same-sex marriage legalization announcements impact the occurrence of LGBT hate-crimes. I exploit variation in the timing of same-sex marriage legalization announcements across states, using a difference-in-differences design. I find that a same-sex marriage legalization announcement leads to a reduction in the LGBT hate-crime rate of 0.111 per 100,000 people from a base of 0.3. This result is mostly driven by reductions in violent hate-crimes. There is also evidence of a reduction in property hate-crimes. Additional analyses indicate that the effect is stronger in counties with a large share of likely perpetrators. The results show suggestive evidence that same-sex marriage bans have the opposite effect on the LGBT hate-crime rate. The results demonstrate that salient LGBT-specific policy announcements are effective at reducing hate-crimes based on sexual orientation.

Third, I study the impact that recreational marijuana legalization has on airline travel. Using origin to destination flight data and marijuana legalization and availability dates, I find no evidence of an increase in airline travel as a result of marijuana legalization. The null results are robust to difference-in-differences models and synthetic control models. My initial estimates may be attenuated by business travelers, drivers, or enforcement of marijuana prohibition. I control for these circumstances and still find no effect.


© 2019, Robert W. Pettis

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