The Overall Effect of the Business Cycle on Crime


Address for correspondence: Philip J. Cook, ITT/Sanford Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Sociology, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0245, USA. Tel.: +1-919-613-7360; fax: 1-919-681-8288; e-mail:


This paper analyses the 13 business cycles since 1933 to provide evidence on the old question of whether recessions cause crime. Using data from the United States, we find that recessions are consistently associated with an uptick in burglary and robbery, and a reduction in theft of motor vehicles. There is no statistical association with homicide. These patterns are suggestive of the relative importance of the various channels by which economic conditions influence crime.