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Title:Unemployment, Economic Activity and Crime Rates: A Reexamination From an Opportunity Perspective
Author(s):Cantor, David Ira
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Criminology and Penology
Abstract:The purpose of this study is to develop and test a general causal model of criminal activity that accounts for the relationship between unemployment rates and crime rates. The model proposed here argues that when predicting the sign of the unemployment rate two direct and opposing effects must be considered. First, decreases in macro economic activity, as indicated by an increase in the unemployment rate, decreases the time potential victims of crime spend in high risk, high exposure situations (criminal opportunity). Alternatively, these same decreases will increase the motivation to commit a crime for particular individuals because of the well known relationship between economic hardship and criminal offending.
Several analyses are undertaken that estimate the total effect of the unemployment rate on crime and partially identify each structural effect. First, national victimization data are used in conjunction with several a-priori identifying restrictions to link specific dimensions of "victim proneness" with changes in the unemployment rate between 1973 and 1975. Second, two time series analyses are undertaken that concentrate on estimating the effect of the unemployment rate for seven FBI index crimes over the post world war II period.
From these analyses evidence is found for both a positive and negative effect of the unemployment rate on aggregate criminal activity. Three major conclusions are made with respect to this relationship. First, the opportunity effect of the unemployment rate is found to be stronger than the economic hardship effect for most of the crimes studied here. Using a formal statistical criterion (i.e. a two tailed test, .10 level), an opportunity effect is found for murder, assault and auto theft. A marginally insignificant effect is also found for robbery. Second, the effect of economic hardship caused by increases in the unemployment rate is found to be most significant for crimes involving property. No such effect was found for the purely violent crimes. And third, the relative strength of the opportunity and hardship effects were found to operate under different lag structures. Victim proneness seemed to react quicker to changes in the unemployment rate than did criminal motivation.
Issue Date:1985
Description:249 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8511591
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1985

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