Offending Frequency and Responses to Illegal Monetary Incentives

Holly Nguyen, Thomas A. Loughran, Carlo Morselli, Frédéric Ouellet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: We examine how responsive offenders are to illegal monetary incentives. We draw from rational choice theory, prospect theory, and models of labor supply to develop expectations regarding the relationship between criminal efficiency, which is the average earnings per offense, and frequency of offending. Methods: We use OLS, fixed effects, and first-difference estimators to analyze data from 152 incarcerated male inmates from Quebec, Canada to study within individual monthly changes in criminal efficiency and offending frequency. Results: There is an inverse relationship between criminal efficiency and frequency of offending, net of individual fixed effects, for market crimes, but not property crimes. We also find that the supply of crime is inelastic, meaning it is not highly sensitive to illegal wage changes. Conclusions: In the months that offenders have an average bigger pay-off per crime, they offended less frequently. We conjecture that this negative relationship could be explained by two mechanisms: an income effect and/or through reference dependence. However, we are not able to disentangle between the two mechanisms. Moreover, we note that criminal efficiency is likely endogenous and should be treated as such in future scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-265
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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