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Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory

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Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory

Francis T. Cullen & Pamela Wilcox

Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: November 23, 2010 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959193 | Print ISBN: 9781412959186 | Online ISBN: 9781412959193 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Economic Theory and Crime

Shawn D. Bushway

Gary Becker's 1968 “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach” serves as the starting point for the study of crime by economists. It is noteworthy that Becker cites both Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, early criminologists responsible for the rational or utilitarian approach to crime and punishment. Becker's work is a more formal specification of the basic rational choice ideas laid out by these early thinkers. Becker's model is indisputably a simple model of criminal behavior, with its assumptions of a static model in which everyone has perfect information. In little more than a decade of Becker's work, economists had recognized the shortcomings of this model and had accepted that population heterogeneity and imperfect information needed to be key features of any formal economic model of crime. There is now a large body of sophisticated economic theory that can explain many of the unique features of criminal behavior. A paper by ...

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