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Unemployment and Crime

NCJ Number
Research Bulletin Issue: 14 Dated: (1982) Pages: 28-33
R Tarling
Date Published
6 pages
A review of about 30 relevant studies from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia indicates that unemployment is not the sole determinant or even the major determinant of crime.
It has been theorized that unemployment tends to propel persons into crime to enable them to survive economically, and also that unemployment tends to increase the anomie among the unemployed that is related to criminal behavior. The studies reviewed were either solely concerned with establishing the impact of unemployment on crime or considered unemployment as one among many possible influences. The studies were mainly aggregate or ecological; i.e., they compared unemployment rates and recorded crime rates for different areas at the same time (cross-sectional studies) or from the same area for different years (time-series studies). The studies indicate that crime often increases during periods of low unemployment and that many crimes are committed by employed people and those of school age, such that unemployment is not identified as a powerful determinant of crime. Some evidence of a relationship between unemployment and crime persists, however, although it appears that crime and unemployment are interrelated in some complex way with other aspects of economic disadvantage or social deprivation. It seems unlikely that additional aggregate studies would clarify the issues further. The studies of individuals, on the other hand, are more promising, but such studies are few and in their infancy. The monitoring of employment records and criminal behaviors of a cross-section of types of persons could yield some significant results. Detailed empirical evidence is provided for reviewed studies in England and Wales. Fourteen references are listed.


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