Munich Personal RePEc Archive

On the intergenerational nature of criminal behavior

Bethencourt, Carlos and Kunze, Lars (2014): On the intergenerational nature of criminal behavior.

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Empirical evidence suggests that family background and parental criminality are strong predictors of an individuals’ criminal behavior. The aim of this paper is to account for this intergenerational nature of criminal behavior within a simple theoretical model. Drawing on the literature of cultural transmission, we model the dynamics of moral norms of good conduct (honest behavior). Individuals’ criminal behavior and morality are strategic complementarities that reinforce each other. We establish the existence of multiple steady states and provide conditions on the socialization process under which both types - honest and dishonest - survive in the long run even though parents commit crime but at the same time agree that honesty is desirable. Our model provides a novel explanation of why crime is highly concentrated in specific areas and also why crime rates tend to be persistent over time. An empirical application reveals that our model can account for the differential reductions in property crime rates across US federal states since the 1980s.

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