Asymmetric Crime Cycles
Recent theoretical models based on dynamic human capital formation, or social influence, suggest an inverse relationship between criminal activity and economic opportunity and between criminal activity and deterrence, but predict an asymmetric response of crime. In this paper we use three different data sets and three different empirical methodologies to document this previously-unnoticed regularity. Using nonparametric methods we show that the behavior of property crime is asymmetric over time, where increases are sharper but decreases are gradual. Using aggregate time-series U.S. data as well as data from New York City we demonstrate that property crime reacts more (less) strongly to increases (decreases) in the unemployment rate, to decreases (increases) in per capita real GDP and to decreases (increases) in the police force. The same result is obtained between unemployment and property crime in annual state-level panel data. These results suggest that it may be cost effective to implement mechanisms to prevent crime commission rates from rising in the first place.