Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kyle Thomas, Ph.D.


Kyle Thomas, Ph.D. (Chairperson)

Lee Ann Slocum, Ph.D.

Chris Sullivan, Ph.D.

Thomas Loughran, Ph.D.


An essential component of any rational choice theory of criminal behavior is the notion that crime decisions are driven by an individual’s expected gains and losses to illicit activities. More specifically, offenders are typically presumed to balance the pleasures of the various benefits to crime against the pains associated with crime’s risks and costs, the presumption being that the offender will pursue criminal acts in the event he or she believes the expected utility to crime exceeds that which can be achieved through strictly legal means. Although criminologists have managed to test some of the more basic implications of this choice calculus, so to speak, many of the more nuanced predictions of this calculus have received relatively minimal scholarly attention. In particular, little is currently known about the extent to which a person’s perceptions of the rewards, risks, and costs to crime will exert a combined influence on his or her criminal proclivities. Put differently, we have yet to rigorously examine whether the perceived incentives to crime will be interdependent on one another in shaping an offender’s involvement in criminal activities. Not only is the criminological literature largely bereft of any formal discussion of any such interdependencies (insofar as what theory would seem to imply about the interrelations between rational choice inputs), but also any direct empirical examination of those interdependencies still has yet to be carried out. This dissertation sought to fill this gap in the literature by deriving three primary sets of hypotheses from prior scholarship on rational choice theories of crime (namely, Becker’s [1986] model), each of which outlines the directionality, and overall functional form, of the potential interdependent relationships between the rewards, risks, and costs to crime. Each hypothesis was then examined using self-report data derived from the Pathways to Desistance Study, the results of which were largely supportive of the existence of a generally interdependent link between rational choice variables.

Additional Files

Ben Hamilton_Dissertation_12-4-2023.docx (579 kB)

Included in

Criminology Commons