Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 49-71

First online:

Robbery, recession and real wages in Hong Kong

  • Mark S. GaylordAffiliated withCity University of Hong Kong
  • , Graeme LangAffiliated withCity University of Hong Kong

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Between 1965 and 1975 Hong Kong experienced a dramatic increase in reported crime. Criminologists have put forward two major explanations for this: 1) modernization (or convergence) theory, and 2) the alleged break-up of the police-triad (Chinese secret societies) alliance following the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Data from the 1970s show a remarkably close relationship in Hong Kong between changes in real wages and robbery rates. In this paper we argue that declining wages are related to increased rates of such ''quick cash'' crimes, particularly in societies lacking a safety net of unemployment benefits, universal health insurance and income security provisions. The results offer support for this alternative, but admittedly partial, explanation of Hong Kong's rising crime rate.