Industrial Composition, Employment Opportunity, and County Crime Rates: Examining the Beginning of the Causal Process

Tim Wadsworth, University of Washington

There is a long history in criminology of studies that examine the influence of joblessness, labor force involvement, poverty and other community level measures of economic wellbeing on crime. Yet less attention has been given to the precursors of these characteristics. De-industrialization, increased labor market segmentation, and other macro-economic forces have been explored in the economics and stratification literatures, and the mechanisms by which they may influence crime have been discussed, but few empirical analyses have examined the influence of these processes on aggregate rates of criminal behavior. This paper draws on data from the U.S. Census, County Business Pattern Data, and the Uniform Crime Reports to examine how industrial composition and labor market segmentation influence rates of violent and propety crime, both directly and indirectly through local employment patterns, racial segregation, family disruption, and mobility. The findings suggest that including macro-level forces such as industrial composition and de-industri8alization can add substantially to our understanding of the economic causes of criminal behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006