Testing the Theory of Rational Crime with United States Data, 1994-2002

ICPSR Bulletin (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), Vol. 27, No. 3, 2007

29 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2009

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

Do criminals in the United States respond rationally to changes in incentives, or is crime inherently an irrational phenomenon? Building upon models used by Ehrlich (1973), Levitt (2002), and others, this paper uses a model of rational crime to examine the elasticities of seven index crimes with respect to changes in law enforcement expenditures and economic incentives using state-level United States data from the years 1994 through 2002. Our empirical results are consistent with the economic model of criminal behavior first proposed by Becker (1968), in which higher levels of law enforcement reduce crime through a deterrence effect, and other recent studies suggesting that aggregate crime rates have a significant rational component.

Keywords: Rational Crime, Law Enforcement, Deterrence, Incentives, Criminal Behavior

Suggested Citation

Noveck, Scott M., Testing the Theory of Rational Crime with United States Data, 1994-2002 (2007). ICPSR Bulletin (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), Vol. 27, No. 3, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1374754

Scott M. Noveck (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

United States

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