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The Socioeconomic Determinants of Crime. A Review of the Literature

Paolo Buonanno

No 63, Working Papers from University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics

Abstract: Starting from Becker’s seminal paper we review the first contributions to the economics of crime, stressing how with the first model of criminal choice, due to Becker, the way of conceiving criminal behaviours has drastically changed. In fact, criminal choice ceases to be viewed as determined by mental illness or bad attitudes, but it is considered on the basis of a maximization problem in which agents have to compare costs and benefits of legal and illegal activities taking in account the probability of being arrested and punished and the expected returns from crime. Criminal decision is an economic choice by rational agents. In the second part of the survey, in which we focus our attention on empirical works, we present the main recent contributions to the economics of crime; in particular we outline the determinants of criminal behaviours and explore the relationships existing between crime and socioeconomic variables emerging from the literature. In fact, the economics of crime interacts with different and heterogeneous fields (i.e. sociology, criminology, psychiatry and geography). It is closely related to poverty, social exclusion, wage and income inequality, cultural and family background, level of education and other economic and social factors that may affect individual’s propensity to commit crimes such as cultural characteristics, age and sex.

Keywords: Crime; Education; Inequality; Social Interactions; Unemployment; Youth (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I2 J24 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 34 pages
Date: 2003-11, Revised 2003-11
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