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The Effect of Welfare Programs on Criminal Behavior: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis

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  • Zhang, Junsen

Abstract

A simple economic model of criminal behavior shows that welfare payments will reduce the time allocated to illegal activities under risk aversion and other reasonable assumptions. This theoretical prediction is confirmed by the empirical findings: using a set of cross-sectional U.S. state data for 1987, it is found that cash or in-kind welfare programs have a negative and often significant effect on property crime. More general programs, such as public housing, seem to have a larger effect than those aimed primarily at women (AFDC). Medicaid and school lunch programs apparently have little effect on property crime. Copyright 1997 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhang, Junsen, 1997. "The Effect of Welfare Programs on Criminal Behavior: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(1), pages 120-137, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:35:y:1997:i:1:p:120-37
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    Cited by:

    1. Entorf, Horst, 2011. "Crime, Prosecutors, and the Certainty of Conviction," IZA Discussion Papers 5670, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Richard Wright & Erdal Tekin & Volkan Topalli & Chandler McClellan & Timothy Dickinson & Richard Rosenfeld, 2017. "Less Cash, Less Crime: Evidence from the Electronic Benefit Transfer Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(2), pages 361-383.
    3. Scorzafave, Luiz Guilherme & Soares, Milena Karla, 2009. "Income inequality and pecuniary crimes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 104(1), pages 40-42, July.
    4. Meloni, Osvaldo, 2014. "Does poverty relief spending reduce crime? Evidence from Argentina," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 28-38.
    5. Dominique Demougin & Robert Schwager, 1998. "Public Safety, Altruism and Redistribution," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 62, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
    6. Ryan S. Johnson & Shawn Kantor & Price V. Fishback, 2007. "Striking at the Roots of Crime: The Impact of Social Welfare Spending on Crime During the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 12825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Chioda, Laura & De Mello, João M.P. & Soares, Rodrigo R., 2016. "Spillovers from conditional cash transfer programs: Bolsa Família and crime in urban Brazil," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 306-320.
    8. Ana María Cerro & Osvaldo Meloni, 2000. "Determinants of the crime rate in Argentina during the '90s," Estudios de Economia, University of Chile, Department of Economics, vol. 27(2 Year 20), pages 297-311, December.
    9. Entorf, Horst, 2008. "Wirkung und Effizienz von Strafrecht: "Was geht?" - bei jungen Gewalttätern?," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-056, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    10. Edlund, Lena & Li, Hongbin & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen, 2007. "Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 3214, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Lewis R. Gale & Will Carrington Heath & Rand W. Ressler, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Hate Crime," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 203-216, Spring.
    12. Corman, Hope & Dave, Dhaval M. & Reichman, Nancy E., 2014. "Effects of welfare reform on women's crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 1-14.
    13. Cerro, Ana María & Rodríguez Andrés, Antonio, 2011. "Typologies of Crime in the Argentine Provinces. A Panel Study 2000-2008," MPRA Paper 44460, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. George F. N. Shoukry, 2016. "Criminals' Response To Changing Crime Lucre," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(3), pages 1464-1483, July.
    15. Entorf, Horst & Spengler, Hannes, 2000. "Development and validation of scientific indicators of the relationship between criminality, social cohesion and economic performance," ZEW Dokumentationen 00-05, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    16. Nuno Garoupa, 1997. "The role of moral values in the economic analysis of crime: A general equilibrium approach," Economics Working Papers 245, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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