The Perception of Small Crime

CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2010-115

32 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2010

See all articles by J.R. Magnus

J.R. Magnus

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics

Arthur van Soest

Tilburg University; Netspar; RAND Corporation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Salima Douhou

Tilburg University - Center for Economic Research (CentER)

Date Written: October 8, 2010

Abstract

Violations of social norms can be costly to society and they are, in the case of large crimes, followed by prosecution. Minor misbehaviors — small crimes — do not usually result in legal proceedings. Although the economic consequences of a single small crime can be low, such crimes generate substantial losses in the aggregate.

In this paper we measure perceptions of incorrect behavior or ‘small crime,’ based on a questionnaire administered to a large representative sample from the Dutch population. In the questionnaire we ask the respondents to rate the severity and justifiability of a number of small crimes. We present short questions that only state the nature of the small crime, as well as vignette questions, describing in detail the fictitious person committing the small crime and other factors related to the circumstances in which the small crime is committed.

We find that the perceived severity of small crimes varies systematically with characteristics of the respondent as well as of the person committing the crime. Small crimes are considered less serious if committed by someone with lower income. Also, the association between respondent characteristics and perceived seriousness changes if the respondents are given more information about the offender and the circumstances of the offense.

Keywords: Crime Seriousness, Social Norms, Vignettes

JEL Classification: K42, K14

Suggested Citation

Magnus, Jan R. and van Soest, Arthur H. O. and Douhou, Salima, The Perception of Small Crime (October 8, 2010). CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2010-115. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1705433 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1705433

Jan R. Magnus (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Arthur H. O. van Soest

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC 5000 LE
Netherlands

Netspar

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Salima Douhou

Tilburg University - Center for Economic Research (CentER) ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands
0031134662824 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.center.nl

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