A group of economists recently published an article looking at the statistical return to bank robberies in Britain. John Timmer reviews their results:
The results were not pretty. For guidance on the appropriateness of knocking over a bank, the authors first suggest that a would-be robber might check with a vicar or police officer, but "[f]or the statistics, look no further. We can help. We can tell you exactly why robbing banks is a bad idea."We thought we'd look at the economics of bank robbery in the United States, using the FBI's published statistics for bank crimes in 2011 as our starting point.
The basic problem is the average haul from a bank job: for the three-year period, it was only £20,330.50 (~$31,613). And it gets worse, as the average robbery involved 1.6 thieves. So the authors conclude, "The return on an average bank robbery is, frankly, rubbish. It is not unimaginable wealth. It is a very modest £12,706.60 per person per raid."
"Given that the average UK wage for those in full-time employment is around £26,000, it will give him a modest life-style for no more than 6 months," the authors note. If a robber keeps hitting banks at a rate sufficient to maintain that modest lifestyle, by a year and a half into their career, odds are better than not they'll have been caught. "As a profitable occupation, bank robbery leaves a lot to be desired."
Worse still, the success of a robbery was a bit like winning the lottery, as the standard deviation on the £20,330.50 was £53,510.20. That means some robbers did far better than average, but it also means that fully a third of robberies failed entirely.
Here, the FBI combines 5,014 robberies, 60 burglaries and 12 larcenies into its total of 5,086 bank crimes in the U.S. for 2011.
Of these 5,086 bank crimes, 4,534 resulted in the offenders making off with loot, or 89.2% of the total. That is what we'll call our "initial success rate", as the remaining 552 bank crimes failed to produce any income at all for the offenders for any length of time....MORE