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Economic Development and the Demographics of Criminals in Victorian England

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  • Chris Vickers
  • Nicolas L. Ziebarth

Abstract

We use a data set consisting of felony trials in London from 1835 to 1913 to analyze changing demographic patterns in the commission of crimes. We find that the average age of offenders in London increased substantially more than can be explained through increases in longevity or jurisdictional changes. Moreover, this increase is larger for crimes committed for economic gain than for crimes of violence. We build a model to explain the increase in the number of older offenders. As industrialization proceeded, older workers increasingly found their human capital unsuitable to the technology level, which forced some into crime. We then complement this time-series analysis with cross-sectional data from England and Wales from 1870, 1883, and 1910. In the cross sections, areas with higher rates of urbanization and industrialization had higher average ages of criminals and disproportionately more criminals from medium-skilled, artisan occupations.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2016. "Economic Development and the Demographics of Criminals in Victorian England," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(1), pages 191-223.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/684303
    DOI: 10.1086/684303
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Howard Bodenhorn & Carolyn Moehling & Gregory N. Price, 2012. "Short Criminals: Stature and Crime in Early America," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 393-419.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joel Mokyr & Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2015. "The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 31-50, Summer.
    2. Bindler, Anna & Hjalmarsson, Randi, 2017. "Prisons, recidivism and the age–crime profile," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 46-49.
    3. Bindler, Anna & Hjalmarsson, Randi, 2016. "The Fall of Capital Punishment and the Rise of Prisons: How Punishment Severity Affects Jury Verdicts," Working Papers in Economics 674, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Joel Mokyr, 2014. "A Flourishing Economist: A Review Essay on Edmund Phelps's Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 189-196, March.
    5. Aránzazu Guillán Montero & David Le Blanc, 2019. "Lessons for Today from Past Periods of Rapid Technological Change," Working Papers 158, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.

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