On shoplifting and tax fraud : an action-theoretic analysis of crime

Kroneberg, Clemens ; Heintze, Isolde ; Mehlkop, Guido

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URL: http://ub-madoc.bib.uni-mannheim.de/2303
URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-23037
Document Type: Working paper
Year of publication: 2008
The title of a journal, publication series: None
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Law and Economics > Sonstige - Fakultät für Rechtswissenschaft und Volkswirtschaftslehre
MADOC publication series: Sonderforschungsbereich 504 > Rationalitätskonzepte, Entscheidungsverhalten und ökonomische Modellierung (Laufzeit 1997 - 2008)
Subject: 330 Economics
Subject headings (SWD): Deutschland , Kriminalität , Steuerhinterziehung , Soziale Norm
Abstract: The article evaluates different theories of action in the area of crime research. A narrow version of rational choice theory assumes actors to choose in an instrumental, outcome-oriented way. It hypothesises that individuals weight the costs and benefits of criminal acts with subjective probabilities. In contrast, a wide version of the theory allows individuals to derive utility directly from choosing certain actions. Previous studies either do not directly test these theories or yield inconsistent results. We show that a meaningful test of these rival rational choice explanations can only be conducted if a broader view is adopted that takes into account the interplay of moral norms and instrumental incentives. Such a view can be derived from the Model of Frame Selection (Kroneberg 2005) and the Situational Action Theory of Crime Causation (Wikström 2004). Based on these theories, we analyze the willingness to engage in shoplifting and tax fraud in a sample of 2,130 adults from Dresden, Germany. In line with our theoretical expectations, we find that only respondents who do not feel bound by moral norms consider instrumental incentives. Where norms have been strongly internalised and in the absence of neutralisation techniques which legitimise norm-breaking, instrumental incentives are irrelevant.
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