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Crime Distribution and Victim Behavior during a Crime Wave

In: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America

  • Rafael Di Tella
  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Ernesto Schargrodsky

The study of how crime affects different income groups faces several difficulties. The first is that crime-avoiding activities vary across income groups. Thus, a lower victimization rate in one group may not reflect a lower burden of crime, but rather a higher investment in avoiding crime. A second difficulty is that, typically, only a small fraction of the population is victimized so that empirical tests often lack the statistical power to detect differences across groups. We take advantage of a dramatic increase in crime rates in Argentina during the late 1990s to document several interesting patterns. First, the increase in victimization experienced by the poor is larger than the increase endured by the rich. The difference appears large: low-income people have experienced increases in victimization rates that are almost 50 percent higher than those suffered by high-income people. Second, for home robberies, where the rich can protect themselves (by hiring private security, for example), we find significantly larger increases in victimization rates amongst the poor. In contrast, for robberies on the street, where the rich can only mimic the poor, we find similar increases in victimization for both income groups. Third, we document direct evidence on pecuniary and non-pecuniary protection activities by both the rich and poor, ranging from the avoidance of dark places to the hiring of private security. Fourth, we show the correlations between changes in protection and mimicking and changes in crime victimization. Fifth, we offer one possible way of using these estimates to explain the incidence of crime across income groups.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Edwards & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2010. "The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dite09-1, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11839.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11839
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
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    1. 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.
    2. Pedro Dal Bó & Ernesto Dal Bó, 2004. "Workers, Warriors and Criminals: Social Conflict in General Equilibrium," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 642, Econometric Society.
    4. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "Crime, Urban Flight, and the Consequences for Cities," NBER Working Papers 5737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. H. Naci Mocan & Stephen C. Billups & Jody Overland, 2000. "A Dynamic Model of Differential Human Capital and Criminal Activity," NBER Working Papers 7584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1996. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," NBER Working Papers 5430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2004. "Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces After a Terrorist Attack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 115-133, March.
    9. Witte, Ann Dryden, 1980. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime with Individual Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 57-84, February.
    10. Mark Duggan, 2000. "More Guns, More Crime," NBER Working Papers 7967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Hui-Wen, Koo & Png, I. P. L., 1994. "Private security: Deterrent or diversion?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 87-101, March.
    12. Alejandro Gaviria & Carmen Pagés, 1999. "Patterns of Crime Victimization in Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4124, Inter-American Development Bank.
    13. Galiani, Sebastian & Gertler, Paul & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2008. "School decentralization: Helping the good get better, but leaving the poor behind," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2106-2120, October.
    14. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
    15. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman, 2002. "Inequality and Violent Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 1-40, April.
    16. Victor Lavy, 2002. "Evaluating the Effect of Teachers' Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1286-1317, December.
    17. 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.
    18. Kerry Papps & Rainer Winkelmann, 2000. "Unemployment and crime: New evidence for an old question," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 53-71.
    19. Ian Ayres & Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Measuring Positive Externalities From Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis Of Lojack," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 43-77, February.
    20. Soares, Rodrigo R., 2004. "Development, crime and punishment: accounting for the international differences in crime rates," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 155-184, February.
    21. Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "The changing relationship between income and crime victimization," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 87-98.
    22. Papps, Kerry L. & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Unemployment and Crime: New Answers to an Old Question," IZA Discussion Papers 25, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    23. Lott, John R, Jr & Mustard, David B, 1997. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-68, January.
    24. Gaviria, Alejandro & Pages, Carmen, 2002. "Patterns of crime victimization in Latin American cities," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 181-203, February.
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