Re-defining Rationality: An Analysis of Criminal Behavior
At the core of economics is the idea that humans behave rationally and will maximize their own utility in any given situation. Illegal behavior, then, can be hard to explain; a criminal must reason that breaking the law is worth the potential benefit their action could bring. Traditional studies examining the motivations behind crime have been divided, with economic theory on one side and sociological, biological or psychological theory on the other. Only recently have researchers considered variables from both of these categories simultaneously in crime modeling. This thesis treats the combined model of Peter-Jan Engelen, Michel W. Lander, and Marc van Essen in "What determines crime rates? An empirical test of integrated economic and sociological theories of criminal behavior" as a basis for an exploring what factors determine crime rates, and expands upon it through the addition of five novel predictors. County-level panel data testing from North Carolina finds that previously unconsidered factors correlate to violent and property crime in the state. These results are then discussed in a legal context, with deterrence methods as well as the effectiveness of current sentencing and rehabilitation practices in mind.