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Crime, Job Searches, and Economic Growth


  • Juin-jen Chang
  • Chi-Hsin Wu



This paper constructs a theoretical model with which to analyze the puzzling links between unemployment and crime rates, described in the literature. Most theoretical papers on crime, such as Becker Journal of Political Economy 76, 169–217, ( 1968 ), Ehrlich Journal of Political Economy 81, 521–565, ( 1973 ), and İmrohoroğlu et al. International Economic Review 41, 1–25, ( 2000 ), emphasize the analysis of the equilibrium crime rate, dealing with the unemployment rate as an exogenous parameter, but little attention has been devoted to investigating the influence of the criminal market on the equilibrium unemployment rate in the labor market and how these markets interact. This paper illustrates how the causes of crime play a crucial role in the unemployment-crime relationship, wherein different causality result in different associative relationships between unemployment and crime. The aforementioned conclusion illustrates the theory explaining why the empirical findings related to the unemployment-crime relationship are mixed and equivocal. Second, this paper describes the diverse origins of crime, in which employed workers and unemployed workers have different incentives for entering a life of crime. Employed and unemployed workers assume different opportunity costs by engaging in criminal activities, resulting in different effects on the economy. This explains why crime rates relative to unemployment rates in different countries could be either procyclical or countercyclical. Copyright International Atlantic Economic Society 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Juin-jen Chang & Chi-Hsin Wu, 2012. "Crime, Job Searches, and Economic Growth," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 40(1), pages 3-19, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:atlecj:v:40:y:2012:i:1:p:3-19
    DOI: 10.1007/s11293-012-9302-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert J. Barro, 2013. "Inflation and Economic Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(1), pages 121-144, May.
    2. Benhabib Jess & Farmer Roger E. A., 1994. "Indeterminacy and Increasing Returns," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 19-41, June.
    3. Imrohoroglu, Ayse & Merlo, Antonio & Rupert, Peter, 2000. "On the Political Economy of Income Redistribution and Crime," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 1-25, February.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Wu, Yangru & Zhang, Junxi, 1998. "Endogenous growth and the welfare costs of inflation: a reconsideration," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 465-482, March.
    6. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1993. "Transitional Dynamics in Two-Sector Models of Endogenous Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 739-773.
    7. Philippe Aghion & Peter Howitt, 1994. "Growth and Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(3), pages 477-494.
    8. Kenneth Burdett & Ricardo Lagos & Randall Wright, 2004. "An On-The-Job Search Model Of Crime, Inequality, And Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 681-706, August.
    9. Palokangas, Tapio, 1996. "Endogenous growth and collective bargaining," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 925-944, May.
    10. Bean, Charles & Pissarides, Christopher, 1993. "Unemployment, consumption and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 837-854, May.
    11. Oliver Jean Blanchard & Peter Diamond, 1989. "The Beveridge Curve," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 20(1), pages 1-76.
    12. Isaac Ehrlich, 1996. "Crime, Punishment, and the Market for Offenses," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 43-67, Winter.
    13. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-565, May-June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Fedeli & Vito Mariella & Marco Onofri, "undated". "Determinants of joblessness during the economic crisis: the impact of criminality in the Italian labour market," Working Papers 176, University of Rome La Sapienza, Department of Public Economics.

    More about this item


    Crime; Economic growth; Job search; K14; O12; J64;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search


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