The Changing Relationship between Income and Crime Victimization

12 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2007

See all articles by Steven D. Levitt

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation


The main results of the paper are as follows: Information in the National Crime Victimization Survey suggests that property crime victimization has become increasingly concentrated on the poor. For instance, in the mid-1970s households with incomes below $25,000 (in 1994 dollars) were actually burglarized slightly less than households with incomes greater than $50,000. By 1994, the poor households were 60 percent more likely to be burglarized than the rich households. For violent crime, however, a different pattern is observed. In the Chicago homicide data, homicide rates at a point in time are generally inversely related to median family income in the community. However, this relationship has substantially weakened over time for blacks and has disappeared completely for whites by 1990. This finding is particularly striking because cross-neighborhood income inequality increased substantially over the time period examined. In other words, the income gap between the richest and poorest communities grew substantially, but the murder gap shrunk.

Keywords: income inequality

Suggested Citation

Levitt, Steven D., The Changing Relationship between Income and Crime Victimization. Economic Policy Review, Vol. 5, No. 3, September 1999, Available at SSRN:

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