DID GOING TO COLLEGE HELP MICHAEL CORLEONE? New evidence of the benefits of education for ''business criminals''

21 Mar 2016

A mobster who completes just one extra year of education can increase, on average, his earnings by around 8%, according to a new study of the Italian-American Mafia by the University of Essex and the University of California Merced.

For those engaged in more sophisticated crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion and counterfeiting – so-called ''business criminals'' – the increase rises to 16%. This is larger than the earnings benefits of an additional year''s education for a US citizen of a similar age living in a similar place.

The study by Nadia Campaniello, Giovanni Mastrobuoni and Rowena Gray, which is to be presented at the Royal Economic Society''s annual conference in Brighton in March 2016, is one of the first to look at whether education has a positive impact on the productivity of criminals and their earnings.

The research analyses a unique sample of over 400 mobsters taken from the 1940 United States Population Census and records from the 1960s belonging to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The resulting dataset contains information about their education, occupation, wage income, employment status, address and house value or rent paid, in addition to the extent of their involvement with the mob and their criminal career.

These can then be compared with a sample of the mobsters'' neighbours and other comparison groups of white men living in the United States.

Co-author Dr Nadia Campaniello from the Department of Economics at the University of Essex comments:

''The Italian-American Mafia is one of the longest running criminal operations in the world and conducts itself like a business corporation, with the Boss as chief executive.''

''Within that, more than one third of mobsters are business criminals, engaging in the more sophisticated crimes – and for them, we find that education really does pay.''

''Even the mobster at the lower end of the hierarchy who sees, on average, his return at 5.6% is experiencing a higher return on his extra year of education than another Italian immigrant or an immigrant from another country.''

In addition to Dr Campaniello, the research team were Professor Giovanni Mastrobuoni, also from the University of Essex and Dr Rowena Gray from the University of California Merced.

Catherine McDonald

Faculty Communications Officer | 07515 116547 | cmcdonb@essex.ac.uk