Crime doesn't pay, but college-educated mobsters do make more money than their peers, according to a recent study published in the Economics of Education Review.
Researchers at the University of Essex and the University of California, Merced analyzed U.S. census data to determine the education levels of members of the Italian-American mafia from the 1930s to the 1960s. In their report, "Returns to education in criminal organizations: Did going to college help Michael Corleone?," the researchers found that mafia members' income levels rose as much as 8.5% for each year they attended college. The figure aligns with the return on education for the U.S. population at large at the time, and also exceeds the return for college-educated Italian immigrants not in the mafia.
Mobsters involved in high-level crimes such as drug dealing or loan sharking had the greatest returns on their investment. Study co-author Giovanni Mastrobuoni explains that higher education likely helped mobsters with business skills such as "dealing with numbers, organizing your thoughts, [and] organizing a group." Mafia members involved in low-level crime, on the other hand, didn't have as high a return on their college education.
Even though a life of crime isn't the ethical path to success, the study does highlight the importance of a college education. As Mario Puzo wrote in the novel The Godfather: "The lawyer with the briefcase can steal more money than the man with the gun" (Wang, Quartz, 7/12).
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