Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis
Journal of Political Economy, Volume 99, Number 6, December 1991, pages 1272-1295.
43 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012
Date Written: February 1, 1988
The dynamic model developed in this paper provides possible economic explanations for many observed patterns of crime rates (across time, groups and societies) and makes it possible to analyze, in novel and explicit ways, questions such as, what effects does a society’s past or nature of its individuals’ social exposure (for example, segregation) have on crime rates.
A departure of this paper concerns individuals’ estimates of the probabilities of punishment. I formalize a natural hypothesis that an individual’s estimates are influenced by his past observations of variables such as the prevalence of crime and the frequency with which crimes are punished. By aggregating the resulting choices of individuals, I obtain dynamic relationships between current crime rates and some relevant past and present variables. These relationships provide a basis for analyzing the evolution of crime and of evaluating the impact of changes in parameters.
Among the analyses presented is that of the difference in crime rates of different groups (for example, modest inter-group differences in economic fundamentals are consistent with large difference in crime rates), and a demonstration of how crime spills over across groups. The paper also provides a framework for analyzing why and how changes in degrees of segregation may affect crime rates in different groups (for instance, I delineate some of the circumstances under which a decrease in segregation will reduce crime rates in all groups).
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