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Labor Markets, Employment, and Crime

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1997
4 pages
Publication Series
This paper reports on a study that tested the dual labor market theory, which hypothesizes that criminal behavior is related to having "good" or "bad" jobs.
"Good" jobs, known as primary-sector jobs, pay reasonably well, have good benefits, and offer future economic advantages. "Bad" jobs, or secondary-sector jobs, on the other hand, are low paying, have few benefits and rarely paid vacation, and offer little or no future. Applying control theory and bonding theory, the researchers expected that the primary-sector jobs would be more likely to build attachments and commitments to the job, and secondary-sector jobs would be less likely. The "good" job would offer a "stake in conformity" because it has a future, and the employee would feel that there is something to lose. The research team analyzed violent crime rates in 121 census tracts in Seattle, Wash., to test these theories. The variables considered included the poverty rate, income inequality, percentage of the population represented by young males, percentage who were African-American, and the rate of labor market instability (a combination of the unemployment rate and percentage of the work force in service-sector jobs). Researchers also analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which studied the work experiences of young adults ages 14 to 24. Because youths under 18 years old may have different attitudes about attachment to work than those over 18, a separate analysis was conducted for 14- to 17-year-olds. The theory of labor market instability and its relationship to criminality was next applied to an analysis of census tract data on education, employment, and crime in Seattle, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. The theory appeared to work well in Seattle, marginally in Cleveland, and not at all in Washington, D.C. The study offers an explanation as to the findings in Washington, D.C.

Date Published: June 1, 1997