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Crime and economic incentives

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  • Steve Machin
  • Costas Meghir

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Yale University)

Abstract

We explore the role that economic incentives, particularly changes in wages at the bottom end of the wage distribution, play in determining crime rates. We use data on the police force areas of England and Wales between 1975 and 1996. We find that falls in the wages of unskilled workers leads to increases in crime. We carry out a number of experiments with different wage measures, including a wage measure that accounts for the effects of changes in the composition of employment. These reinforce the picture of a strong impact of wages on crime. The result that incentives play a central role is reinforced further by the strong impact on crime of deterrence measures and of a measure of the returns to crime.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W00/17.

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Length: 33 pp
Date of creation: Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:00/17

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  1. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1996. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," NBER Working Papers 5430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1995. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  5. Robert Witt & Alan Clarke & Nigel Fielding, 1998. "Crime, earnings inequality and unemployment in England and Wales," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 265-267.
  6. Edward E. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1738, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  7. Gosling, Amanda & Machin, Stephen & Meghir, Costas, 2000. "The Changing Distribution of Male Wages in the U.K," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 635-66, October.
  8. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  9. Richard Blundell & Howard Reed & Thomas Stoker, 1999. "Interpreting aggregate wage growth," IFS Working Papers W99/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It?," NBER Working Papers 5451, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Meghir, Costas & Whitehouse, Edward, 1996. "The Evolution of Wages in the United Kingdom: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 1-25, January.
  12. Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1156-1185, December.
  13. Grogger, Jeff, 1998. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 756-91, October.
  14. Manski, C.F., 1990. "The Selection Problem," Working papers 90-12, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  15. Reilly, Barry & Witt, Robert, 1996. "Crime, Deterrence and Unemployment in England and Wales: An Empirical Analysis," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 137-59, April.
  16. Freeman, Richard B., 1999. "The economics of crime," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 52, pages 3529-3571 Elsevier.
  17. Richard Blundell & Amanda Gosling & Hidehiko Ichimura & Costas Meghir, 2004. "Changes in the distribution of male and female wages accounting for employment composition using bounds," IFS Working Papers W04/25, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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