Co-offending in Context: The Role of Economic Hardship
McGloin, Jean M.
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The group nature of crime is one of its better-known features. Over the past few decades, empirical work on group crime has been dominated by an offender-based perspective. Yet scholars have argued that the emergence of group crime is contextually dependent on the availability, proximity, and convergence of suitable co-offenders. It is unlikely that these conditions are equally distributed across space and time; instead, they are likely influenced by socio-structural factors, such as economic hardship. This dissertation hypothesizes that the relationship between economic hardship and co-offending operates through both long-and short-term impacts. In particular, long-term effects of economic hardship associated with increasing criminal motivation are expected to be positively related to the rate of co-offending and the proportion of crimes that are co-offenses. Economic hardship is expected to lead to more contemporaneous increases in the levels of guardianship and a reduction in the quality of criminal targets. This short-term effect is expected to have an overall null relationship with the rate of co-offending, but should be positively related to the proportion of crimes that are co-offenses. I further hypothesize that these relationships will vary across instrumental and expressive crimes. Using incident-level data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) that has been aggregated to the Metropolitan Statistical Level (MSA), I evaluate the macro-level relationship between economic hardship and co-offending utilizing a hybrid modeling strategy that combines fixed and random effects estimators. The results from these analyses suggest that the long-term effect associated with increases in economic hardship are positively and strongly related to the rate and proportion of instrumental and expressive crimes that are co-offenses. There is mixed evidence in support of the hypothesized relationships relating the short-term effect associated with economic hardship and the rate/proportion of instrumental and expressive crimes that are co-offenses. Across these results, there is variation in the extent to which the age-distribution of an MSA moderates the relationship between economic hardship and group crime. The theoretical implications and limitations of this dissertation are discussed in the context of the broader literature interested in studying group offending.