"Hunger makes a thief of any man": poverty and crime in British colonial Asia

K.I. Papaioannou

Research output: Working paperAcademic

Abstract

This study uses rainfall variation as an instrumental variable for padi-rice production to estimate the impact of poverty on different types of crime across British colonies in South and South East Asia (1910-1940). Using original primary sources retrieved from annual administrative and statistical reports, it provides some of the first evidence in a historical setting on the causal relationship between poverty and crime. Extreme rainfall, both droughts and floods, lead to a large increase in property crimes (such as robbery, petty theft and cattle raiding) but not to an increase in interpersonal violent crimes (such as murder, homicides and assault). In line with a growing body of literature on the climate-economy nexus, we offer evidence that loss of agricultural income is one of the main causal channels leading to property crime. Additional historical information on food shortages, poverty and crime is used to explore the connection in greater detail.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerkeley, CA., USA
PublisherBerkeley Electronic Press
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameBEHL working paper series
PublisherBerkeley Economic History Laboratory
VolumeWP2016-03

Keywords

  • subsistence crisis; poverty; crime; climate shocks; British colonialism; rural livelihoods; rice economies; agrarian societies

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  • Cite this

    Papaioannou, K. I. (2016). "Hunger makes a thief of any man": poverty and crime in British colonial Asia. (BEHL working paper series; Vol. WP2016-03). Berkeley Electronic Press. https://academic.oup.com/ereh/article/21/1/1/2911958