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Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between theft and poverty in rural areas. Following a disputed presidential election, fuel supply to the highlands of Madagascar was severely curtailed in early 2002, resulting in a massive -- if temporary -- increase in poverty. This situation constituted a natural experiment of the effect of poverty on theft. Using original survey data collected in June 2002 at the height of the crisis, we find that crop theft increases with poverty and that an increase in law enforcement personnel reduces cattle theft, a form of organized crime. Results suggest that theft is used by some of the rural poor as a risk coping strategy. Increased transport costs led to a rise in cattle and crop theft, suggesting that isolation raises crime.

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