Seasonal agricultural activity and crime

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Sudden shocks to labor demand have sometimes been shown to increase local crime rates. We build on this literature by estimating the causal effect of labor-intensive seasonal agricultural activity on crime. We analyze a unique data set that describes criminal activity and fruit, vegetable, and horticultural (FVH) employment by month and U.S. county from 1990-2016. We find the FVH labor share is associated with reduced property and violent crime rates, and possibly the number of property crimes committed within county-years. Examining heterogeneities based on ethnicity, labor intensive FVH activity decreases the rate of non-Hispanic arrests and victimization and increases the number of Hispanic arrests and victims (consistent with rising local Hispanic populations). Taken together, results are broadly consistent with the idea that agricultural harvest of labor-intensive crops enhances local labor market opportunities that reduce incentives to commit crimes. Results are robust to a battery of alternative specifications that address the inherent challenges associated with measuring seasonal agricultural labor


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in American Journal of Agricultural Economics following peer review. The version of record [Seasonal agricultural activity and crime. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 104, 2 p530-549 (2021)] is available online at:


crime, immigration, seasonal agriculture, farm workers, seasonal employment


Charlton, D., James, A., & Smith, B. (2022). Seasonal agricultural activity and crime. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 104(2), 530-549.
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