Does Nothing Stop a Bullet Like a Job? The Effects of Income on Crime

29 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2024

See all articles by Jens Ludwig

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

kevin schnepel

Simon Fraser University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 9, 2024

Abstract

Do jobs and income-transfer programs affect crime? The answer depends on why one is asking the question, which shapes what one means by “crime.” Many studies focus on understanding why overall crime rates vary across people, places, and time; since 80% of all crimes are property offenses, that’s what this type of research typically explains. But if the goal is to understand what to do about the crime problem, the focus will instead be on serious violent crimes, which account for the majority of the social costs of crime. The best available evidence suggests that policies that reduce economic desperation reduce property crime (and hence overall crime rates) but have little systematic relationship to violent crime. The difference in impacts surely stems in large part from the fact that most violent crimes, including murder, are not crimes of profit but rather crimes of passion – including rage. Policies to alleviate material hardship, as important and useful as those are for improving people’s lives and well-being, are not by themselves sufficient to also substantially alleviate the burden of crime on society.

JEL Classification: H0,I39,K40

Suggested Citation

Ludwig, Jens and schnepel, kevin, Does Nothing Stop a Bullet Like a Job? The Effects of Income on Crime (April 9, 2024). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2024-42, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4789050 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4789050

Jens Ludwig (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Kevin Schnepel

Simon Fraser University

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