Employment and Earnings of Men at High Risk of Gun Violence

Kapustin, M., Bhatt, M. P., Heller, S. B., Bertrand, M., & Blattman, C. (2024, May). Employment and Earnings of Men at High Risk of Gun Violence. In AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 114, pp. 58-64). 2014 Broadway, Suite 305, Nashville, TN 37203: American Economic Association.


Since Becker (1968), economists have modeled crime as resulting from higher returns to criminal activity than legal work. Yet contemporary employment data for people engaged in crime is scarce. We surveyed men at extreme risk of gun violence in Chicago about their work in the formal, informal, and criminal sectors. Noncriminal work is common. Two-thirds of respondents specialize solely in the criminal or noncriminal sectors, both earning about minimum wage at the median. Those who mix across sectors typically earn higher wages. We describe workers by type to demonstrate how better understanding sectoral specialization could inform program design.