About the Session: How do gangs compete for extortion? Using detailed data on individual extortion payments to gangs and sales from a leading wholesale distributor of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals in El Salvador, we document evidence on the determinants of extortion payments, firm responses to extortion, and effects on consumers. We exploit a 2016 non-aggression pact between gangs to examine how collusion affects extortion in areas where gangs previously competed. While the non-aggression pact led to a large reduction in violence, we find that it increased extortion by 15% to 20%. Much of the increase in extortion was passed-through to retailers and consumers: we find a large increase in prices for pharmaceutical drugs and a corresponding increase in hospital visits for chronic illnesses. The results shed light on how extortion rates are set and point to an unintended consequence of policies that reduce competition between criminal organizations.
About the Speaker: Carlos Schmidt-Padilla received his PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a Research Associate at the Center on the Politics of Development. Since September 2021, Carlos has been a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford Impact Labs (SIL), affiliated with PovGov at CDDRL. Broadly, his research interests encompass the political economy of development of Latin America and of sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, he studies questions concerning crime, human capital, immigration, and policing in developing countries. Carlos is from San Salvador, El Salvador.