Tilburg Law and Economics Center

TILEC Seminar: Theo Koutmeridis (Glasgow University)

Date: Time: 10:45 Location: M 1003

10:45-11:45, M 1003
Title: "Shaking Criminal Incentives"

Dr. Theodore Koutmeridis is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow, where he co-ordinates the "Behaviour, structure and interventions" interdisciplinary research network. He holds a PhD in Economics from Warwick University where he was a Royal Economic Society Junior Fellow and an Onassis Scholar.
His work on economic inequality and crime has been recognised with various awards, such as the Sir Alec Cairncross Prize in Economics, the 1st Prize of the European Science Days Interdisciplinary Award, the British Academy Rising Star Award, and has been featured in the media and various symposia, such as his TEDx talk on "The Underground Economy".

Theodore Koutmeridis

His work has been awarded grants for research, teaching, impact and engagement, and more recently an ESRC-DFID grant for fieldwork in underdeveloped Indian schools (£700,000, 2018-21). As a Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy he has contributed to the "RSE/YAS Brexit Report". He is also affiliated with the Institute of Labor Economics IZA and he has recently been a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University.
Dr. Koutmeridis is the recipient of the 2018 RSE Henry Duncan Medal, which according to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he has been awarded "for his outstanding work in the field of economics where he combines a clear mastery of the microeconomic methodology, a keen instinct for its empirical applications and a deep commitment to engagement activities."

Research interests:

Theo Koutmeridis works on labor economics and on the interaction of economics and law, focusing on understanding and improving the living standards of the most disadvantaged individuals in our society. He examines the interlinked issues of inequality, crime and poverty in both developed and developing economies, concentrating on how education, psychology and markets can empower marginalised people. He is particularly interested in evidenced-based economic and public policies that can lead society to equitable, efficient and sustainable advancements, while he engages with the wider community by making his work accessible and relevant.

"Shaking Criminal Incentives"

Authors: Yu Aoki (University of Aberdeen & IZA) and Theodore Koutmeridis (University of Glasgow & IZA)


We study criminal incentives exploiting a historically unique source of exogenous variation, the unanticipated 1995 Kobe earthquake, which influenced several Japanese municipalities with thousands of deaths and building damages, while it left others unaffected. Natural experimental evidence between 1990-2000 indicates that the decline in burglaries post-earthquake is disproportionally large for affected municipalities, even after controlling for other key determinants, such as labor market conditions and police forces, indicating the response of housebreakers to damages that reduce the value of prospective takings. Yet, other crime types remain unchanged, eliminating the possibility of generalized effects that influence crime at large or of substitutions across different crime types, implying the existence of adjustment costs to changes in criminal specialization. For robustness we measure housing damage using both fully and partly destroyed houses, as the destruction of houses may mechanically decrease burglaries by simply reducing the number of targets. To account for endogenous reporting, we use not only reported crimes but also actual arrests and cleared-up events. We tackle further endogeneity concerns by instrumenting the extent of damage with the distance from the earthquake epicentre, which arguably influences burglaries exclusively through devaluing the potential loot. Importantly, our estimated elasticity is robust and consistent with burglaryvalue elasticities derived in the non-experimental literature. This is the first comprehensive natural experimental study that explores both the direct impact and potential substitution effects across different crime types in response to the changing economic value of prospective criminal takings, key but overlooked aspects of illegal behavior.