The fear of being criminalized runs rampant through our society, with crimes rates climbing to levels never before reached in the United States and abroad. Determining what factors contribute to an increase in crime rates, especially with regards to unemployment, will be of value to the social research community, law enforcement officials, and policy makers alike. According to statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, since the 1960s, the crime rate per 100,000 people with respect to violent and property crimes, in addition, to the total crime rate have all increased dramatically.
In fact, during the early 1960s, per 100,000 people roughly 100 committed violent crimes, as opposed to nearly 500 per 100,000 as of 2005. While that may not seem like much of an increase, it equates to a 400 percent increase over a 20 year period. Concurrently, property crimes rates have also increased by approximately 1,700 per 100,000 people since the 1960s, accounting for nearly 90 percent of total crimes reported by the FBI/ Bureau of Justice Statistics (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).
It should be noted, these statistics do not include the “dark figures of crime” or those which go unreported for a variety of reasons, so in fact, crimes rates are underrepresented. The aforementioned statistics unequivocally present evidence that crime is a significant concern in the United States. Additional evidence shows the adverse impact crime has had on the youth of America. Of utmost concern is the impact the increase in crimes rates have had with respect to the youth of America.
A telephone survey conducted by researchers at the University of New Hampshire and North Carolina between December 2002 and February 2003 discovered that “more than one half of the children and youth (530 per 1,000) experienced an assault in the course of the study year” (Finkelhor, et al. , 2005). The surveyors administering the Developmental Victimization Survey took into account numerous assault cases (when a weapon was used, when a weapon was not used, etc. ) among children ages 2-17.
So what factors contribute to an increase in crime rates since the 1960s? While cultural and regional values and dysfunctional families surely impact crime rates, unemployment rates may also be a contributor as well. Former president Bill Clinton stated it best during a July, 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention; “I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organizes life. It gives structure and discipline to life” (B Clinton, public presentation, July 26, 2004).
It can be argued that an absence of organization, structure and discipline are all consistent with struggles faced by the unemployed, with crime presenting a seemingly viable solution to these problems. Research Topic The proposed study will explore the relationship between unemployment and crime rates. Previous studies have in fact revealed a correlation between unemployment and an increase in crime rates. It is hypothesized that unemployment and crime rates have a positive correlation, thus an increase in unemployment levels will lead to an increase in crime rates.
For the study, the independent variable will be unemployment and the dependent variable will be crime rates; hence, unemployment is the determinant of crime rates. This prediction is to be tested with 5,000 randomly-selected participants ages 16 – 45 living in Oregon, using a questionnaire designed to measure self-reported levels of unemployment and criminal activity. Per the questionnaire, participants will answer questions regarding activities such as theft, burglary, assault they have taken part in while employed and while unemployed during the last five years.
Trends can be studied and inferences can be drawn by applying this method of study. By grouping ages together, the study may yield valuable insight pertaining to the age when criminal activity was most pertinent amongst unemployed men and women. Using this method, the age group that commits the most severe crimes will be identified; ages 16 – 25, 26 – 35, or 36-45. Another valuable tool that can be applied to this research is creating a breakdown by year, starting with 2003 and running through 2007, to determine a trend on whether unemployment-related crimes have increased, decreased or remained relatively steady with each passing year.
Also, the data can be broken-up into regions, allowing for a determination as to higher or lower unemployment rates and crime rates in areas around the state, thus trends can be observed over each of the past five years. As opposed to previous research based for the most part upon the Uniform Crime Report which provides data for reported crimes only, this research study will seek to uncover the real situation of crime, by going right to the source: those committing the crimes.
Statement of Purpose The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship of two social interactions within individuals; crime rate and unemployment. Exploring these two units of analysis, a positive or negative correlation may surface through the methodology employed in this study. As a result of this study, government officials can make educated decisions regarding the prioritization of funding to be allocated for unemployment programs. Hypothesis
This study hypothesizes a positive correlation exists between unemployment and crime rate, whereas an increase in the unemployment rate leads to an increase in the crime rate. Literature Review The University of California Economics Department undertook a study entitled Identifying the Effect on Unemployment on Crime referencing state-panel results from 1970 – 1993, including the Uniform Crime Report, the Bureau of Census, the Current Population Survey Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and alcohol consumption (per-capita) information from the Brewer Almanac.
After comprehensive review and dissection of the information provided by the aforementioned sources, Raphael & Ebner (1998) reported the highest elasticity to be between unemployment rates and burglary. Hence, those who were unemployed and were arrested, most likely were arrested for committing burglary. This provides valuable insight into crimes the unemployed are most likely to commit. Statistics from the Department of Justice also provided evidence that “high unemployment rates are an important factor contributing substantially to both property and violent crime rates” (Raphael & Winter-Ebmer, 1998).
The study showed that from 1992 – 1996 there was more than a 20 percent decrease in murder or robbery rates, a 15 percent decrease in auto theft, burglary, and rapes, in addition to a 4 percent decrease in incidences involving larceny as reflected in Department of Justice statistics from 1997. This can be in part contributed to a drop in unemployment from 7. 4 percent to 5. 4 percent providing evidence of a positive correlation.
By “controlling for alcohol consumption and using instrumental variables to correct for omitted variables,” Raphael & Winter-Ebmer (1998) were able to uncover a positive correlation between crime and unemployment free from the inclusion of the aforementioned variables that have skewed past findings. A study was undertaken by Anna Nilsson & Jonas Agell (2003), economics professors at the University of Stockholm in Sweden in 1996 – 2000 to uncover the possible link between unemployment, poor labor markets and a subsequent increase in crime.
The researchers used “a new panel data set for Swedish municipalities” in an attempt to uncover whether or not a positive correlation did in fact exist (Nilsson & Agell, 2003). While the results of their study yielded no evidence that unemployment leads to an increase in crime, they reference the existence of views in the sociology community which do in fact support the hypothesis of a positive correlation between unemployment and crime rates. They note that “the idea that unemployment breeds crime also has a long tradition in e. g. sociology and criminology” (Nilsson & Agell, 2003).
One such example which they mention includes the aforementioned study by Raphael and Winter-Ebmer, who “report results indicating that a substantial portion of the decline in U. S. property crime rates during the 1990s can be attributed to the decline in the unemployment rate” (Nilsson & Agell, 2003). While Nilsson and Agell (2003) found no evidence that unemployment was linked to a increase in crime rates, their study was beneficial in providing a link to research that does support a connection between unemployment and crime rates.
Another study that supports the existence of a positive correlation between unemployment and crime came from professor Alan Seals (2007), a member of the economics department at Middle Tennessee State University. The report, dated August, 2007, entitled Are Gangs an Alternative to Legitimate Employment? used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997), and found the “effect of the local unemployment rate is statistically significant” with respect to gang participation (Seals, 2007).
Additional support for my research proposal linking unemployment and crime rates come from Seals (2007) who reported “a statistically significant and positive relationship is found between gang participation and the local unemployment rate. ” Furthermore, those with lower cognitive ability (age 16+ and able to work) were found to be more sensitive to changes in the employment landscape, hence if hiring was down, youth within this age group were more prone to join gangs.
In essence, youth who are unemployed are more apt to join gangs in that it is a “rational economic” decision, and subsequent gang affiliation contributes to an increase in crime rates (Seals, 2007). Thus, unemployment and crime are directly linked. Another valuable research study in support of my hypothesis emphasizing a positive correlation between unemployment and crime was conducted by Gould, Weinberg & Mustard (2002) who concluded that “both wages and unemployment are significantly related to crime. ” [need page number when you quote. When you have already listed the author, you do it like this: “end of quote” (22).
If you have not already listed the author, you do it like this: “Gould, Weinberg, and Mustard 2002: 22. ] The study entitled Crime Rates and Local Labor Market Opportunities in the United States: 1979-1997 using data from the various sources. Two of the three analyses compared “state-level average wage and unemployment rate of non-college educated men” as a means of determining a relationship between unemployment and crime at the national level, while the final focused on data from a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, as with the previous research study (Gould, et. l. , 2002).
With respect to unskilled men from 1983 – 1997 (on the national level), using a collaboration of Uniform Crime Report and unemployment data, it was found that “the unemployment rate of non-college men explains 24% of the total increase in property crime and 8% of the increase in violent crime” (Gould, et. al. , 2002). Lastly, it should be noted that “using U. S. ounty-level data Gould, Weinberg and Mustard (2002) estimate that a one-percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate of non-college educated men increases reported burglary crime with 3. 1 percent. ”
These are astounding numbers, and clearly shows the positive correlation between crime and unemployment; directly supporting the hypothesis that an increase in unemployment leads to an increase in crime rates. A final study dated 2004, conducted by Hari D. Maharajh and Akleema Ali, complied secondary data from the Central Statistical Office of Trinidad and Tobago to study the relationship between alcohol use and unemployment and their impact on crime levels. The study found that “unemployment accounted for 69. 2% of the variance for serious crimes,” even though it was determined the results were not sufficient evidence that crime is linked to unemployment as opposed to other factors such as poverty (Maharajh & Ali, 2004).
Instead, it was discovered that the unemployment rate decreased from roughly 20 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 1997, and the spike in criminal activity would then have no positive correlation. Nonetheless, the same hypothesis was tested, even though the research method employing the use of secondary data was the basis for the study. Like the aforementioned studies linking unemployment and crime, many fail to address the “dark figures of crime” as they rely on Uniform Crime Report data that does not take into account unreported crimes.
Had these surveys used NCVS data (victimization surveys) in conjunction with self-reporting questionnaires on criminal activity during times of employment and unemployment, the results may have provided new insight into the relationship. The research proposal I offer you provides the unique approach of gathering information directly from the source (those who commit crimes) in hopes of determining an appropriate course for future policy with respect to funding unemployment programs.