What determines crime rates? An empirical test of integrated economic and sociological theories of criminal behavior


The Social Science Journal

June 2016, vol. 53, n°2, pp.247-262

Departments: Management & Human Resources, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: Crime, Property crime, Violent crime, Deterrence, Integrated model

Research on crime has by no means reached a definitive conclusion on which factors are related to crime rates. We contribute to the crime literature by providing an integrated empirical model of economic and sociological theories of criminal behavior and by using a very comprehensive set of economic, social as well as demographic explanatory variables. We use panel data techniques to estimate this integrated crime model for property and violent crime using the entire population of all 100 counties in North Carolina for the years 2001–2005. Both fields contribute to the explanatory power of the integrated model. Our results support the economic explanation of crime with respect to the deterrent effect of the probabilities of arrest and imprisonment concerns, as well as the time allocation model of criminal activities. In contrast, the integrated model seems to reject the impact of the severity of punishment on crime levels. With respect to the sociological theories of crime, we find most support for the social disorganization theory and for the routine activity theory. Finally, we find differences between property and violent crimes, mostly explained by the sociological models.