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Time Series/Cross Section Analysis of International Variation in Crime and Punishment

NCJ Number
Review of Economics and Statistics Volume: 62 Issue: 3 Dated: (1980) Pages: 417-423
K I Wolpin
Date Published
7 pages
The extent to which deterrence, environment, and culture can be considered responsible for the observed variance in the propensity for criminal behavior across countries is analyzed.
The analysis is based on time-series observations on robberies from 1955 to 1971 for three countries: England, Japan, and the United States as represented by California. The differential impacts on the per-capita robery rate of the certainty and severity of punishment and of economic and demographic characteristics are estimated. Robbery is examined because it is defined similarly across countries and because it combines features of both property crimes and personal crimes of violence. Culture is defined as the set of unmeasured crime determinants that permanently differ across countries, and its effect is captured through the use of country-specific dummy variables. The character of culture is inferred from the interrelationships of country-specific effects on crime to those on punishments. Among the data considered are those for crime, clearance, conviction, imprisonment, and probation rates; for median time served; for the proportion of youths in the male population; and for real income. These data are used in an estimation framework based on an economic approach to criminal behavior. The results showed, among other things, that increased crime control either through greater certainty of capture or conviction given capture, or through increased severity of punishment given conviction, is related to a reduced level of robberies. Also, increased youthfulness in the population and usually high unemployment imply greater criminality. Data tables, formulas, footnotes, and 17 references are included.

Date Published: January 1, 1980