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Personal indebtedness, community characteristics and theft crimes


  • McIntyre Stuart G

    () (Department of Econimics, University of Strathclyde)


Becker (1968) and Stigler (1970) provide the germinal works for an economic analysis of crime, and their approach has been utilised to consider the response of crime rates to a range of economic, criminal and socioeconomic factors. Until recently however this did not extend to a consideration of the role of personal indebtedness in explaining the observed pattern of crime. This paper uses the Becker (1968) and Stigler (1970) framework, and extends to a fuller consideration of the relationship between economic hardship and theft crimes in an urban setting. The increase in personal debt in the past decade has been significant, which combined with the recent global recession, has led to a spike in personal insolvencies. In the context of the recent recession it is important to understand how increases in personal indebtedness may spillover into increases in social problems like crime. This paper uses data available at the neighbourhood level for London, UK on county court judgments (CCJ’s) granted against residents in that neighbourhood, this is our measure of personal indebtedness, and examines the relationship between a range of community characteristics (economic, socio-economic, etc), including the number of CCJ’s granted against residents, and the observed pattern of theft crimes for three successive years using spatial econometric methods. Our results confirm that theft crimes in London follow a spatial process, that personal indebtedness is positively associated with theft crimes in London, and that the covariates we have chosen are important in explaining the spatial variation in theft crimes. We identify a number of interesting results, for instance that there is variation in the impact of covariates across crime types, and that the covariates which are important in explaining the pattern of each crime type are largely stable across the three periods considered in this analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • McIntyre Stuart G, 2013. "Personal indebtedness, community characteristics and theft crimes," Working Papers 1320, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:str:wpaper:1320

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-346, April.
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    More about this item


    Spatial econometrics; Theft crime; Personal debt default; Economic conditions;

    JEL classification:

    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models

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