Money from Crime

A Study of the Economics of Drug Dealing in Washington, D.C.

by Peter Reuter, Robert J. MacCoun, Patrick Murphy, Allan Abrahamse, Barbara Simon


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This report examines the role of drug selling in the economic life of people at risk of long-term poverty, specifically young males in Washington, D.C. Drawing on data provided by the District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency and interviews with probationers, the authors focus on District residents charged with drug selling. They estimate the number of persons involved in the street drug market, describe their characteristics, and discuss what they earn from drug selling. The authors also present data on how adolescents in high-risk areas view drug selling and conclude by offering explanations for participation and earnings patterns, and their policy implications. The authors' findings dispel some of the mythology of the drug marketplace — for example, approximately two-thirds of drug dealers reported being legitimately employed at the time of their arrest. It is the authors' view that the goal of drug abuse prevention will be best served by exploring ways to reduce demand in the street markets and deter young men from selling drugs.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Drug Policy Research Center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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