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Two prominent theories of crime (Wilson and Herrnstein 1985; Gottfredson and Hirshi 1990) rely heavily on the notion that criminals are impatient or “present-oriented.” In brief, the theories posit that present-oriented individuals will be predisposed to crime because the “costs” of crime (e.g., prison time) lag behind crime’s benefits. While the theory has intuitive appeal, it remains controversial. This study considers a data set first presented by Levitt and Venkatesh (2000) that details a drug-selling gang’s activities. In this gang, low-ranking criminals accept low initial wages in the hope of receiving high future remunerations. As demonstrated in the note, this wage structure is exceedingly difficult to reconcile (both theoretically and empirically) with the notion of present-oriented criminals. In sum, the study suggests that present orientation is at best an incomplete and idiosyncratic explanation of the causes of crime.
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