Climate Change and Crime: An Application of Social Escape/Avoidance Theory

Ellen G. Cohn, Florida International University
James Rotton, Florida International University

ABSTRACT
Two archival analyses were performed to examine the association between annual temperatures and U.S. crime rates. The first was based on area averaged temperatures for the U.S. as a whole for years between 1950 and 1999. Box-Jenkins time-series analyses indicated that annual temperatures were associated with assault but not murder/non-negligent homicide rates in analyses that controlled for yearly population, inflation, income inequality, unemployment, and ethnicity. The second analysis was based on state-centered crime rates from 1960 through 1998 and included the same controls. Contrary to the General Affective Aggression Model, cross-sectional time-series analyses indicated that annual temperatures were associated with rates for rape, robbery, burglary, and larceny as well as assault, but not murder or motor vehicle theft. The results are interpreted in terms of the proposed Social Escape/Avoidance theory of crime victimization, which integrates predictions from psychological models of aggression and activity/lifestyle theories of predatory crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006