Unemployment and Crime: 1976-2001

Thomas M. Arvanites, Villanova University
Robert H. DeFina, Villanova University

This research continues the investigation of the impact of unemployment on street crime. Over the past 25 years there has been considerable variation in crime rates and the unemployment rate. During most of the 1970s both rates increased dramatically, and since 1992 both rates have trended downward. The premise that crime rates will decline as the economy improves can be grounded on several different theoretical perspectives (e.g. neo-Marxist, anomie, strain, and control). Controlling for a number of socio-economic variables and the rate of imprisonment this research employs a pooled cross-section/time-series regression analysis using state-level data from 1976-2001. Consistent with the above theories, the civilian unemployment rate is a significant and positive predictor of burglary and larceny. Other dimensions of unemployment are currently being investigated. These include the unemployment rates of young males, those who have "given up searching for work" as wll as the "duration" of unemployment.

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Updated 05/20/2006