Handbook on the Economics of Crime
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Handbook on the Economics of Crime

Edited by Bruce L. Benson and Paul R. Zimmerman

While few economists analyzed criminal behaviour and the criminal justice process before Gary Becker’s seminal 1968 paper, an enormous body of economic research on crime has since been produced. This insightful and comprehensive Handbook reviews and extends much of this important resulting research.
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Chapter 2: Estimating the Supply of Crime: Recent Advances

Helen Tauchen


Helen Tauchen INTRODUCTION As Becker (1993) explained in his Nobel lecture, the economic model of crime is based on the premise that ‘some individuals become criminals because of the financial and other rewards from crime compared to legal work, taking account of the likelihood of apprehension and conviction, and the severity of punishment’. Accordingly, the standard ‘crime-as-work’ model developed by Becker (1968) views criminal activity and legal work as alternative ways of generating income. Individuals weigh the costs and benefits of work in the criminal and legal sectors in deciding how to allocate their time, and the supply of crime is an exact analogy to the standard supply of labor. As implied by the theory, the primary determinants of the supply of crime are the returns to legal work, the benefits and costs of criminal activity including the probability and severity of criminal justice sanctions, the value of the individual’s financial resources, and tastes and preferences. Beginning with Ehrlich’s (1973) work, the empirical specifications of the supply of crime have been based on this framework. Given the excellent reviews of the early research on the supply of crime (e.g. Allen, 1996; Nagin, 1998; Fagan and Freeman, 1999; Freeman, 1999; Buonanno, 2003; Levitt and Miles, 2006; Spelman, 2008; Baumer, 2009), this chapter focuses on the more recent literature. In order to have a background for explaining the empirical specification of the supply-of-crime model, the next section provides a very brief outline of the standard crime-as-work theory. The remaining two sections summarize...

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