The monthly cycle of crime…

…is a function of the monthly cycle of welfare payments, according to Fritz Foley of Harvard Business School. Here’s the paper; here is the abstract:

This paper tests the hypothesis that the timing of welfare payments affects criminal activity. Analysis of daily reported incidents of major crimes in twelve U.S. cities reveals an increase in crime over the course of monthly welfare payment cycles. This increase reflects an increase in crimes that are likely to have a direct financial motivation like burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and robbery, as opposed to other kinds of crime like arson, assault, homicide, and rape. Temporal patterns in crime are observed in jurisdictions in which disbursements are focused at the beginning of monthly welfare payment cycles and not in jurisdictions in which disbursements are relatively more staggered.

In other words, some cities pay everyone at the same time of the month, and those cities there’s a spike in theft but not rape or arson. Foley concludes that crime might be reduced by switching to weekly handouts. At a minimum, police departments should keep the welfare disbursement schedule on the station wall.

Zubin Jelveh offers more, including links to papers about how people spend their welfare checks.

Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.