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The Great Depression of the 1930s led contemporaries to worry that people hit by hard times would turn to crime in their efforts to survive. Franklin Roosevelt argued that the unprecedented and massive expansion in relief efforts "Struck at the roots of crime" by providing subsistence income to needy families. After constructing a panel data set for 81 large American cities for the years 1930 through 1940, the authors estimate the impact of relief spending by all levels of government on crime rates. The analysis suggests that a ten percent increase in relief spending during the 1930s lowered property crime by roughly 1.5 percent.
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