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Does higher unemployment lead to greater criminality? Revisiting the debate over the business cycle

Fredj Jawadi (), Sushanta Mallick (), Abdoulkarim Idi Cheffou and Anish Augustine

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2021, vol. 182, issue C, 448-471

Abstract: A crime epidemic appears to have erupted in many advanced economies, raising questions on whether higher unemployment leads to greater incidence of crime. In this paper, we establish a robust connection between unemployment and crime, considering both violent and non-violent crimes, in a 4 variable time-varying VAR setting in identifying four shocks: unemployment, output, migration fear, and crime shocks. Using data from France and the UK over the time period 1975Q1 to 2013Q4 and 1983Q1 to 2018Q2 respectively, we find significant positive effects of unemployment shocks on crime rates in both countries, particularly so during the times of economic contraction. We also find that crime rates decline during times of economic expansion (in response to a positive shock in GDP growth). Considering shocks in migration fears, we find that migration fears are fuelling higher incidence of crime in France, whereas unemployment shock continues to drive crime rates in the UK. Undertaking further analysis for a single country at quarterly frequency for the UK, and with panel data from 24 countries at annual frequency over the period 1998 to 2016, we support our main hypothesis that higher unemployment rate tends to increase non-violent crime. Our results imply that maintaining stable economic activity is critical in order to stabilize incidence of non-violent crime. These findings have political significance, given the recent unprecedented levels of concern and uncertainty about migration in European countries.

Keywords: Criminality; Unemployment; Immigration; Business cycles; Time-varying impulse responses; Wavelet (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J21 K14 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.03.025

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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