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CARES and crime

Alexander Robert Henke (Department of Economics, Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Linchi Hsu (Department of Economics, Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

Journal of Economic Studies

ISSN: 0144-3585

Article publication date: 8 June 2022

Issue publication date: 18 January 2023




The US signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 to alleviate the harsh economic effects of the pandemic and related shutdowns. A substantial part of the bill expanded and increased unemployment insurance payments, where a growing area of research estimates strong anti-poverty effects. The authors examine the effect of these policies on crime.


The authors use new event study and difference-in-differences techniques to estimate the effect of increasing unemployment insurance payments on property crime and violent crime. Then, the authors estimate the effect of expanded unemployment qualification programs on crime. The authors use a rich set of controls including unemployment, contemporaneous policies and mobile device tracking data to estimate the degree to which people stayed at home.


They find that increasing unemployment insurance payments decreased crime by 20%, driven by a 24% decrease in property crime. The authors also find suggestive evidence that expanding unemployment qualifications decreases crime.

Practical implications

The authors find a new and substantial benefit of expanded unemployment insurance beyond their antipoverty effects.


To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study that directly examines the impact of the CARES Act on crime.



The authors thank Gerald Daniels, Sarah Reber, Bill Spriggs, Omari Swinton, Alessandra Voena, as well as seminar participants at Howard University, Dickenson College, and the 2021 CeMENT Workshop for helpful comments. The authors also thank Albina Khatiwoda for excellent research assistance. All errors are our own


Henke, A.R. and Hsu, L. (2023), "CARES and crime", Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 37-48.



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