Estimating the Size of the Illicit Small Arms Economy in San Diego

Abstract:

Illicit economies are notoriously difficult to detect and quantify for the simple reason that participants have incentives to keep their activities clandestine. This paper outlines and implements a method for estimating the markets for illicit small arms, sex, and drugs as constituent components of the total cash economy for the San Diego metropolitan area. The method has two parts: first it derives the total cash economy of San Diego; second it fits a model predicting that amount for each available year as a function of index variables for three distinct illicit markets (small arms, sex, and drugs) and the licit cash economy. It estimates that the market for cash-based purchases of small arms in San Diego in 2013 was $920 million – slightly larger than the illicit sex industry, and much smaller than both the market for illicit drugs and the licit cash economy. Limitations of the method are discussed, including the potential for better proxy variables to improve reliability.

Abstract:

TOPHER L. MCDOUGAL
Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego

SADO-WPS_SD-SALW-size_McDougal