Patience and Crime

A working paper by Sergio BeraldoRaul Caruso, and Gilberto Turati looks at time preferences and their relation to crime over a five-year period in Italy. Using proxies for patience (some of which may strike some people as rather far-fetched), they found more crimes in areas where residents are more impatient and discount the future more:

In this paper we propose a first empirical test on the relationship between time preferences and crime using as a sample the whole set of Italian regions observed over the period 2002-2007. We consider both property and violent crimes. We proxy time preferences employing: 1) the amount of short-term debt to finance consumption (the consumer credit share); 2) the prevalence of obese people according to their body mass index (obesity); 3) 5 the willingness of individuals to engage in stable relationships (the marriage rate). In line with the theoretical prediction by Davis (1988), we find that where people are more impatient and discount the future more heavily, property and violent crimes are higher. In particular, the correlation between crime rates and time preferences is especially robust when time preferences are proxied both by the obesity and the marriage rates.

The authors add that expectations also factor into the equation:

A more novel result – emphasizing the importance of the future – is the association between future economic opportunities and crime: where future economic prospects are expected to be better, crime rates are lower. If time preferences are consistently associated with crime rates, it becomes important to understand how these preferences are shaped. 


Some of which?

All of them are quite far-feched. This paper is useless.

They discovered that poor people (credit car debt) and young people (not maried) are more likely to commit crimes. Great contribution to Science.


In my younger days I sometimes considered a life of crime, but figured out that I could make a lot more money with less effort (and better hours, too) writing software.


I don’t think they actually uncovered anything new here. Low savings rate and deficient financial skills, low marriage rate, obesity, and high crime rate are already strongly correlated with low income areas. The correlation is well established, but I don’t think that this says anything about which way the correlation runs.


when is a crime a matter of life and death? One of my cats almost died this past week. Now imagine a double whammee. If not gettong back to work is a crime...well, so sorry for now.


How does this not simply a proxy to measure poverty levels? We know obesity, low marriage rate, short term debt are all strongly linked to poverty.


I don't think very many of you even skimmed the paper. They control for a measure of current poverty (current economic opportunity), future economic opportunity, education, and a number of other things connected to poverty.

Greg Stewart

As a police officer for over 16 years and a supervisor of a crime analysis unit I think this article is very interesting. First, we know individuals "age out" of crime. The mechanism for this is actually not well understood but emprically it is a very well established phenomina. In the words of a friend of mine it is the, "F#$k it, I'll just get a job," phenomina.

The reality of crime is that just about the time all our efforts at reducing recidivims seem to bear fruit, the criminals are really just beginning to appreciate the fact that the path they are on is a dead end. Providing research that helps understand this important, if intuitive, fact is worthwhile. If only because a large number of supposed experts in criminology seem to forget to control for aging when examining recidivism (despite it being a very well known phenomina).

While folks might not like it the reality is that criminals are stupid and short sighted. Individuals who lack morals but have enough intelligence and forsight to realize crime is dead end tend to manage hedge funds, or if just slightly more intelligent than the criminal element, tend to become lawyers.