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Rates of Crime and Unemployment: An Analysis of Aggregate Research Evidence

Theodore G. Chiricos
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/800715 187-212 First published online: 1 April 1987


The unemployment/crime rate relationship (U-C) has been described recently as “inconsistent,” “insignificant,” and “weak.” Prior assessments of the U-C relationship have used no more than 18 U-C studies, and no more than 7 with 1970s data. In this paper, I review the findings of 63 U-C studies, 40 of which involve data from the 1970s when unemployment rose dramatically. My analysis shows the conditional nature of the U-C relationship. Property crimes, 1970s data, and sub-national levels of aggregation produce consistently positive and frequently significant U-C results. I discuss the implications of these results and argue that it is premature to abandon “this now well-plowed terrain” and suggest potentially fruitful paths for future studies of the U-C relationship.

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