Friday, May 3, 2024

The Peltzman Effect at Sea

Deiana, Maheshr,and Mastrobuoniand have recently published an analysis of the effects of Search and Rescue operations on migration from Africa to Europe.Nearly half a century ago, Sam Peltzman showed that, because mandatory seat-belts made driving safer, drivers tended to drive more recklessly, partially offsetting the increased safety. Similar effects occurred in the search and rescue context. From the abstract:

Many countries are facing and resisting strong migratory pressure, fueling irregular migration. In response to mounting deaths in the Central Mediterranean, European nations intensified rescue operations in 2013. We develop a model of irregular migration to identify the effects of these operations. We find that smugglers responded by sending boats in adverse weather and utilizing flimsy rafts, thus inducing more crossings in dangerous conditions and ultimately offsetting intended safety benefits due to moral hazard. Despite the increased risk, these operations likely increased aggregate migrant welfare; nevertheless, a more successful policy should instead restrict supply of rafts and expand legal alternatives. 

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