No surprise: poor people steal the most: Continuing our look at the International Crime Victimization Survey, are the rates of property crime the highest in poor countries or wealthy countries? According to rational choice theory, crime pays more and more as one's legal opportunities for income are diminished. By contrast, routine activities theory claims that property crimes will flourish in places where desirable targets are abundant. A lot is stolen because there is a lot to steal. I list here the percent of all respondents whose dwelling was burglarized in the past year:
Costa Rica 7.3
South Africa 6.3
New Zealand 4.3
North Ireland 1.7
West Germany 1.3
The evidence here supports the rational choice view: the worst 11 countries are all poor. (India is an exception, and the number for Brazil is lower than expected). Of course, I haven't mentioned all possible explanations. It might be that countries with lots of crime and poverty have many people with certain traits. An example would be a low average IQ. Sociopathy, impulsivity, present orientation, or laziness are among the other possibilities.
For those familiar with the criminological literature, one of the most interesting numbers is the United States. According to at least two popular theories--strain and institutional anomie--America should lead the world in property crime because it is unique in its worship of the market. Sorry guys--as much as you'd like to vilify the American system and conservatism, the U.S. is mediocre, even among wealthy countries.