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The Effects That Unemployment Has on the Crime Rate

Updated February 21, 2017

It may not come as a surprise that there is a correlation between unemployment and crime and that joblessness is a major motivator in theft, burglary and violent crimes that can have a monetary motivation. Unemployment is only linked to certain types of crimes which are mostly perpetrated by men without a college education. A fall in wages, however, has a greater effect on crime, since low wages don't always provide workers with everything they want and need.

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Theft and Burglary

The highest correlation between unemployment and crime is found with theft and burglary crimes, obviously because individuals without an income, being desperate for money, steal it, or steal things that they need or can sell in exchange for money. These crimes are generally carried out by less-educated men. According to the Review of Economics and Statistics, wages for less skilled, less educated men decreased from 1979 to 1992, leading to a rise in the crime rate. From 1993 to 1997, wages for the same types of workers increased, and the crime rate decreased.


Unemployment and lower wages are also linked with higher assault rates, since money, not just hatred or revenge, can be a motive in violent crimes. As with theft and burglary, this correlation in assault cases only exists in men without a college education.

Rape and Murder

Since money is rarely a motive in rape or murder -- the consequences of these crimes far outweigh any monetary gain -- there is no strong correlation between these crimes and unemployment or lower wages. This shows that unemployment affects certain crimes -- those with monetary motives -- but does not raise the crime rates in all areas of crime.

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About the Author

Christina Sloane has been writing since 1992. Her work has appeared in several national literary magazines.

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