Crime, Employment and Social Welfare: An Individual-Level Study on Disadvantaged Males

Authors: Geert Mesters, Victor van der Geest and Catrien Bijleveld

Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 32, No 2, 159-190, June, 2016

Objectives: We seek evidence for economic and social mechanisms that aim to explain the relationship between employment and crime. We use the distinctive features of social welfare for identification. Methods: We consider a sample of disadvantaged males from The Netherlands who are observed between ages 18 and 32 on a monthly time scale. We simultaneously model the offending, employment and social welfare variables using a dynamic discrete choice model, where we allow for state dependence, reciprocal effects and time-varying unobserved heterogeneity. Results: We find significant negative bi-directional structural effects between employment and property crime. Robustness checks show that only regular employment is able to significantly reduce the offending probability. Further, a significant uni-directional effect is found for the public assistance category of social welfare on property offending. Conclusion: The results highlight the importance of economic incentives for explaining the relationship between employment and crime for disadvantaged individuals. For these individuals the crime reducing effects from the public assistance category of social welfare are statistically equivalent to those from employment, which suggests the importance of financial gains. Further, the results suggest that stigmatizing effects from offending severely reduce future employment probabilities.