The Correlation of Crime and Unemployment Rates

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The aim of this investigation was to determine if there is a correlation between total recorded crime rates and unemployment rates from 1981 until 2016 in England and Wales. It was found out that there is a moderate negative correlation by observing the data plots on a graph, which was further proved by the Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient. Through the simple linear regression, the production of an equation for the line of best fit was possible and identified as predicting future values if a change in the unemployment rate occurs.

This conclusion is contrary to the expected results, believing that a rise in unemployment will cause an increase in the crime rate. This may be surprising as a lot of people connect those two together and think that one might influence the other. There is the common idea that people that are unemployed have a higher chance of committing crimes, as they have more free time, certain needs and possibly a higher motivation.

Looking at Britt’s hypothesis again this would mean that the motivational perspective and the resulting positive correlation cannot be proven by this investigation. This might conclude that his other hypothesis of “less suitable victims can be applicable. As this reduction in possibilities only occurs during a period of economic downturn we have to take a closer look at the years following the 2008 financial crisis. As the data shows the recession is followed by an expected increase in unemployment (5. 7 to 7. 6), and a decrease in total reported crime rates (4. 703 to 4. 338). This negative correlation would support the theory of less potential victims due to a decrease in property during this significant time period.

However, one could argue that there is no direct causal relationship and the values are driven by a third factor. Although unemployment may have a direct effect on economic related crimes, other crimes may have multiple different causations such as mental health, upbringing and social circumstances. Therefore, the crime rate has to be separated into different types of crime. As the main motivation for unemployment related crimes is to maintain certain living standards, this investigation should only focus on property crime including offences such as burglary and auto theft, having a direct economic effect and not violent crimes such as murder or rape.

Whilst concluding the correlation of two variables, one also has to take a closer look at them and the sources they come from. One big aspect which is important for the evaluation of this issue is the variety of definitions for crimes. Everyone can have a different one. Some would already report an insult, where others draw the line at a robbery or burglary. As a result, this could also influence the numbers of reports. Maybe in a year with a higher crime rate, this is only due to a heightened willingness to report, rather than the factors included, such as unemployment. This could also be closely linked to an expansion in the activity of prosecution, where more cases are officially recorded and registered. In this investigation one has to remember and clearly distinguish, that these numbers only include the reported ones and not all committed felonies.

Also the unemployment rate is subjective as there are multiple types of unemployment. Additionally, it is difficult to measure it, as some part-time workers would like to be permanent, some are on zero hours’ contracts or have higher skills than required in their current job. These are defined as underemployed and would not be counted as unemployed. Using the Claimant Count as a measurement can also be hard as not all people classified as unemployed can claim benefits and are therefore not included. An example for this could be someone who is looking for work alongside full-time study.

Therefore, it could be stated that an observable correlation or association between two variables is not the same as an alliance with regards to the content. Therefore, before drawing conclusion, you have to qualify and relativize your results with certain important factors such as the definition or source.

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