Personal indebtedness, community characteristics and theft crimes

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Becker (1968) and Stigler (1970) provide the germinal works for an economic analysis of crime, and their approach has been utilised to consider the response of crime rates to a range of economic, criminal and socioeconomic factors. Until recently however this did not extend to a consideration of the role of personal indebtedness in explaining the observed pattern of crime. This paper uses the Becker (1968) and Stigler (1970) framework, and extends to a fuller consideration of the relationship between economic hardship and theft crimes in an urban setting. The increase in personal debt in the past decade has been significant, which combined with the recent global recession, has led to a spike in personal insolvencies. In the context of the recent recession it is important to understand how increases in personal indebtedness may spillover into increases in social problems like crime. This paper uses data available at the neighbourhood level for London, UK on county court judgments (CCJ's) granted against residents in that neighbourhood, this is our measure of personal indebtedness, and examines the relationship between a range of community characteristics (economic, socio-economic, etc), including the number of CCJ's granted against residents, and the observed pattern of theft crimes for three successive years using spatial econometric methods. Our results confirm that theft crimes in London follow a spatial process, that personal indebtedness is positively associated with theft crimes in London, and that the covariates we have chosen are important in explaining the spatial variation in theft crimes. We identify a number of interesting results, for instance that there is variation in the impact of covariates across crime types, and that the covariates which are important in explaining the pattern of each crime type are largely stable across the three periods considered in this analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event53rd ERSA Congress. Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy - Palmerno, Italy
Duration: 27 Aug 201331 Aug 2013


Conference53rd ERSA Congress. Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy


  • personal indebtedness
  • community characteristics
  • theft crimes


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