Crime in Europe and the United States: Dissecting the ‘Reversal of Misfortunes’

39 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2011  

Paolo Buonanno

University of Bergamo

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS

Giulio Zanella

University of Bologna

Date Written: July 2011

Abstract

Contrary to common perceptions, today both property and violent crimes (with the exception of homicides) are more widespread in Europe than in the United States, while the opposite was true thirty years ago. We label this fact as the ‘reversal of misfortunes’. We investigate what accounts for the reversal by studying the causal impact of demographic changes, incarceration, abortion, unemployment and immigration on crime. For this we use time series data (1970-2008) from seven European countries and the United States. We find that the demographic structure of the population and the incarceration rate are important determinants of crime. Our results suggest that a tougher incarceration policy may be an effective way to contrast crime in Europe. Our analysis does not provide information on how incarceration policy should be made tougher nor does it provide an answer to the question whether such a policy would also be efficient from a cost‐benefit point of view. We leave this to future research.

Suggested Citation

Buonanno, Paolo and Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Zanella, Giulio, Crime in Europe and the United States: Dissecting the ‘Reversal of Misfortunes’ (July 2011). Economic Policy, Vol. 26, Issue 67, pp. 347-385, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1889952 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0327.2011.00267.x

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )

Piazza Pugliatti 1
Messina
Italy

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Giulio Zanella

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, 40100
Italy

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