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Crime Distribution & Victim Behavior During a Crime Wave


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiani & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2006. "Crime Distribution & Victim Behavior During a Crime Wave," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp849, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2006-849

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Zimmerman, Paul R., 2014. "The deterrence of crime through private security efforts: Theory and evidence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 66-75.

    More about this item


    Victimization; income distribution; private security; victim adaptation;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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