Victim Crime Reporting and Rational Choice

Min Xie, University at Albany

Victims' decisions whether to report a crime to the police are important both for substantive and theoretical reasons. Previous literature concerning social, individual, and situational factors related to crime reporting has produced mixed evidence that calls for a more systematic investigation. This paper analyzes the decisions by victims of violent crimes from a rational-choice perspective. We assume that victims choose to report after a cost/benefit analysis restricted by relevant information available at that time. The key issue of interest is the extent to which gender and victim-offender relationship may influence victims' cost/benefit calculations. Specifically, two national surveys--the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) -- are used to address four questions: (1) Do victims of different types of violent crimes assign different weights to different benefit/cost components? (2) For any particular type of crime, do the weights vary depending on the social contexts of crime reporting? (3) Are the structures of the benefit/cost components different for males and females? (4) Does the violence survey (NVAWS), compared to the crime survey (NCVS), measure a range of less serious offenses not covered by the NCVS and thus challenge the generalization of findings drawing on the NCVS?

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006