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Crime and economic incentives

  • Steve Machin
  • Costas Meghir

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Yale University)

We explore the role that economic incentives, particularly changes in wages at the bottom end of the wage distribution, play in determining crime rates. We use data on the police force areas of England and Wales between 1975 and 1996. We find that falls in the wages of unskilled workers leads to increases in crime. We carry out a number of experiments with different wage measures, including a wage measure that accounts for the effects of changes in the composition of employment. These reinforce the picture of a strong impact of wages on crime. The result that incentives play a central role is reinforced further by the strong impact on crime of deterrence measures and of a measure of the returns to crime.

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File URL: http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp0017.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W00/17.

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Length: 33 pp
Date of creation: Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:00/17
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  1. Richard Blundell & Amanda Gosling & Hidehiko Ichimura & Costas Meghir, 2006. "Changes in the Distribution of Male and Female Wages Accounting for Employment Composition Using Bounds," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-420, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  2. Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 6191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
  4. Glaeser, Edward L & Sacerdote, Bruce & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-48, May.
  5. Freeman, Richard B., 1999. "The economics of crime," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 52, pages 3529-3571 Elsevier.
  6. 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.
  7. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
  8. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  9. Meghir, Costas & Whitehouse, Edward, 1996. "The Evolution of Wages in the United Kingdom: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 1-25, January.
  10. Richard Blundell & Howard Reed & Thomas M. Stoker, 2003. "Interpreting Aggregate Wage Growth: The Role of Labor Market Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1114-1131, September.
  11. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-72, July.
  12. A Gosling & Stephen Machin, 1995. "The Changing Distribution of Male Wages in the UK," CEP Discussion Papers dp0271, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  13. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S225-S258, December.
  14. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  15. Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do about It?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 25-42, Winter.
  16. Richard Blundell & Howard Reed & Thomas Stoker, 1999. "Interpreting aggregate wage growth," IFS Working Papers W99/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  17. Robert Witt & Alan Clarke & Nigel Fielding, 1998. "Crime, earnings inequality and unemployment in England and Wales," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 265-267.
  18. Jeff Grogger, 1997. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," NBER Working Papers 5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
  20. Reilly, Barry & Witt, Robert, 1996. "Crime, Deterrence and Unemployment in England and Wales: An Empirical Analysis," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 137-59, April.
  21. Reilly, Barry & Robert Witt, 1992. "Crime, deterrence and unemployment in England and Wales: an empirical analysis," Discussion Papers in Economics 12/92, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
  22. Manski, C.F., 1990. "The Selection Problem," Working papers 90-12, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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