IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Why Have Robberies Become Less Frequent but More Violent?


  • Rajiv Sethi


Although the incidence of robbery has declined sharply since the early 1990s, the proportion of robberies resulting in victim injury has increased and the rate of victim resistance has remained relatively stable. We provide a theoretical explanation for these trends. Deterrence policies that make robbery more costly for offenders result in a decline in the incidence of robbery through the exit of those with the best outside options. The group of robbers who exit consists disproportionately of those who would have fled in the face of victim resistance, and hence, the pool of remaining robbers is more likely to respond violently to noncompliance by victims. This effect is reinforced by what we call victim hardening: a change in the distribution of attributes in the victim pool that makes resistance more likely. This can arise, for instance, through an increase in crime avoidance by the most compliant victims. Deterrence and victim hardening both result in lower robbery rates and greater violence conditional on resistance but have opposing effects on the rate of resistance, thus accounting for its relative stability over time. (JEL K42, K14) The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Yale University. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajiv Sethi, 2009. "Why Have Robberies Become Less Frequent but More Violent?," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 518-534, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:25:y:2009:i:2:p:518-534

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bajari, Patrick & Tadelis, Steven, 2001. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 387-407, Autumn.
    2. Daniel A. Ackerberg & Maristella Botticini, 2002. "Endogenous Matching and the Empirical Determinants of Contract Form," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 564-591, June.
    3. Porter, Robert H, 1995. "The Role of Information in U.S. Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(1), pages 1-27, January.
    4. William P. Rogerson, 1994. "Economic Incentives and the Defense Procurement Process," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 65-90, Fall.
    5. Manelli, Alejandro M & Vincent, Daniel R, 1995. "Optimal Procurement Mechanisms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(3), pages 591-620, May.
    6. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-180, January.
    7. Patrick Bajari & Lixin Ye, 2001. "Competition Versus Collusion in Procurement Auctions: Identification and Testing," Working Papers 01001, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    8. McAfee, R Preston & McMillan, John, 1987. "Auctions and Bidding," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 699-738, June.
    9. Gary Chamberlain, 1980. "Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 225-238.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Brendan O'Flaherty & Rajiv Sethi, 2010. "Witness Intimidation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 399-432.
    2. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:25:y:2009:i:2:p:518-534. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.