Displaced workers experienced a 20% increase in criminal charges the year after a downsizing
Everyone knows that losing your job hurts, but the negative effects are not solely experienced by the displaced worker. Newly published research by a Case Western Reserve University economist finds that involuntary job loss also causes a dramatic increase in criminal behavior.
“Layoffs lead to an increase of criminal charges against displaced male workers, while also decreasing their future earnings and full-time opportunities,” Mark Votruba, co-author of the study and an associate professor of economics in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.
important mechanism behind these effects appears to be the disruptive effect of
job loss on daily schedules. For both violent crimes and drug/alcohol-related
crimes, the charge rates increased much more on weekdays than on weekend.
old adage that idle hands are the devil’s workshop appears to have some truth
to it,” said Votruba. “This unfortunate link (to weekday crimes) highlights the
importance of psychological factors—such as mental distress, self-control,
financial concerns and frustration—in determining counterproductive behavior.”
research utilized data of more than 1 million laid-off Norwegian workers, ages
18-40, of which nearly 84,000 experienced an involuntary job loss over the
period of analysis. Such records linking criminal and employment activity are
not available in the U.S.
According to the study, male workers who were let go through no fault of their own experienced:
a 60% jump in property crimes charges in the
year after a downsizing;
a decrease in earnings by 10 to 15% in the
immediate years following displacement;
a substantial increase in the likelihood of
remaining unemployed or working less than full-time;
an overall 20% increase in criminal-charge rates
in the year after a layoff;
and a dramatic increase in non-property
crimes—violent and serious traffic offenses, as well as drug/alcohol-related
acts—committed on weekdays.
criminal response is not just about workers’ replacing lost income. These
results suggest other important factors are at work, including the
psychological effects of job loss,” said Votruba.
Whether displaced workers in the U.S. exhibit a similar crime response to those in Norway remains an open question, though there is reason to believe the effects would be stronger in the U.S., according to researchers.
has a strong social safety net that makes job loss less painful there than in
the U.S. Both the income and psychological effects of job loss are likely more
severe in the U.S.,” said Votruba, a research associate at Statistics Norway
during the study.
study authors believe their findings can help policymakers better understand
the relationship between job loss and crime, and design policy interventions
that minimize the cost that displacement imposes on individuals and society.
“The U.S. is probably never going to provide as much income support to displaced workers, but programs designed to discourage alcohol and drug abuse among displaced young men or keep them engaged in productivity activities while unemployed could be effective policy tools for reducing crime,” said Votruba.
data allowed researchers to follow men for more than 15 years during the 1990’s
and 2000’s; there was not enough crime among women to include in the study.
study’s co-authors were Mari Rege, of the University of Stavanger; Torbjørn
Skardhamar, of the University of Oslo; and Kjetil Telle, of the Norwegian
Institute of Public Health.