Robert Witt

Prof Robert Witt

Professor of Economics
PhD in Economics, University of Essex
+44 (0)1483 686954
23 AD 00
On sabbatical leave until February 2019



Robert Witt graduated from Kingston Polytechnic (BA (Hons) Econ) in 1974, and he received a master's degree in Financial Economics in 1975 from the University of Wales (Bangor). From 1975 to 1978 he worked as an economic analyst in the City before receiving his master's degree in Economics in 1980 from the University of Essex. He taught at the City of London Polytechnic (1982 to 1989) and as a lecturer in Economics at the University of St Andrews from 1989 to 1992. In 1991, he completed his PhD in Economics at the University of Essex. He moved to Surrey in 1992, and became Professor of Economics in 2010. He also has served as a consultant to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Home Office and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. Rob is a Research Affiliate at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.

Rob's research focuses on the economics of sport and the economics of crime, and he has published in a variety of academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Economica, Labour Economics, Economics Letters, Journal of the Operational Research Society, British Journal of Criminology, Journal of Quantitative Criminology and Energy Economics.

Research interests

Economics of sport: Pay, performance and race in MLS; The effect of unbalanced schedules in SPL.Economics of crime: Prices, policing and policy; Understanding use and impact of tasers; Cyberattacks and cybersecurity.


ECO3038 Topics in Microeconomics

ECOM043 Econometrics 2


Research Associate, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics

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Research interests

Research collaborations

My teaching

My publications


Witt R, Clarke A, Fielding N (1996) Are Higher Long-Term Unemployment Rates Associated with Higher Crime?, University of Surrey School of Economics Discussion Paper DP 7/96
Witt R, Clarke A, Fielding N (1998) Crime, Earnings, Inequality and Unemployment in England and Wales, Applied Economics Letters 5 (4) pp. 265-267
Witt RJ, Reilly B (2016) Disciplinary Sanction and Social Pressure in English Premiership Soccer, University of Sussex Economics Working Paper Series (No. 88-2016)
This paper uses player/match level data drawn from five playing seasons of the English Premiership League (EPL) to test for the presence of a refereeing susceptibility to social pressure in the application of soccer?s commonest sanction, the yellow disciplinary card. Using both player-specific fixed and random effects models, tentative support for the proposition is uncovered. The estimated effect, however, is found to be negligible in magnitude and unlikely to influence match outcomes in a meaningful way.
Hunt LC, Witt R (1995) An Analysis of UK Energy Demand Using Multivariate Cointegration., Surrey Energy Economics Discussion Paper Series SEEDS86
In this paper we estimate an aggregate energy demand equation by a maximum likelihood procedure proposed by Johansen (1988) for the UK using annual data from 1967 to 1994. The influence of the price of energy, income and temperature on energy consumption is examined. A unique long-run equilibrium relationship between energy demand, income and price is found to exist for the period, with temperature affecting demand only in the short-run. The resultant estimated elasticities are robust to different specifications and corroborates the findings of Hunt and Manning (1989) although a weaker long-run effect of income on energy demand was observed.
Witt R, Clarke A, Fielding N (1998) Common Trends and Common Cycles in Regional Crime, Applied Economics 30 (1) pp. 1407-1412
Bale T, Reilly B, Witt R (2008) Determining Constituency Marginality in the UK Using the Expense Claims of MPs, University of Surrey School of Economics Discussion Paper DP 01/08 pp. 1-18
A United Kingdom (UK) parliamentary seat is commonly referred to as ?marginal? if the
majority is less than 10% of votes cast thus rendering the seat vulnerable on a swing of
5%. This paper investigates whether the spending behaviour of MPs on selected
constituency service expenditure categories can offer insights on what constitutes a
?marginal? seat within the UK ?first-past-the-post? electoral system. The possible
existence of a non-linear relationship between the expense claims of MPs and the size of
the constituency majority provides the basis for such an insight. This paper thus
investigates the empirical nature of this non-linear relationship using separate
specifications based on quadratic and piece-wise linear splines in constituency majority
size. The empirical analysis reported for the behavior of MPs appears broadly consistent
with the conventional definition used to classify a ?marginal? constituency in the UK
Reilly B, Witt R (1992) Are the Treasury's Tax Revenue Forecasts Rational?, The Manchester School 60 (4) pp. 390-402
Reilly B, Witt R (2013) Red Cards, Referee Home Bias and
Social Pressure: Evidence From
English Premiership Soccer,
Applied Economics Letters 20 (7) pp. 710-714
Witt R, Witte AD (2002) Crime Causation: Economic Theories, 1 pp. 302-306 MacMillan Reference Library
Entries cover civil and criminal issues, from domestic violence to terrorism. Entries cite pertinent legal cases as well as publications for further information. Also includes a glossary of related terms.
Bachan R, Reilly B, Witt R (2008) The hazard of being an English football league manager: empirical estimates for three recent league seasons, Journal of the Operational Research Society 59 (7) pp. 884-891
Witte AD, Witt R (2001) What we spend and what we get: Public and private provision of crime prevention., NBER Working Paper No. 8204
In this paper, we consider a number of issues regarding crime prevention and criminal justice. We begin by considering how crime is measured and present both general and specific evidence on the level of crime in a variety of countries. Crime is pervasive and varies substantially across countries. We outline the arguments for some public roll in crime prevention, enforcement, prosecution, defence, and adjudication. We consider the relative role of the public and private sectors in crime control and criminal justice. We discuss various measures for the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. We conclude by suggesting some potential areas for research.
Clarke A, Fielding N, Witt R (2000) Crime, Unemployment and Deprivation, pp. 210-222 Macmillan Press and St. Martin's Press
Draca M, Machin S, Witt R (2010) Crime Displacement and Police Interventions: Evidence from London?s ?Operation Theseus", 10 pp. 359-374 University Of Chicago Press: NBER Conference.
This book contributes to the current debate on causes and solutions by applying lessons learned from recent developments in the economics of crime
Reilly B, Witt R (1998) Petrol Price Asymmetries Revisited, Energy Economics 20 (3) pp. 297-308
An error correction model is fitted to monthly data on net retail prices for the United Kingdom over the period January 1982 to June 1995 in order to examine the short-run response of retail petrol prices to changes in input costs and the exchange rate. The hypothesis of a symmetric response by petrol retailers to crude price rises and falls is rejected by the data over the period examined. A similar hypothesis in regard to the exchange rate is also rejected by the data.
Witt R (2005) Do Players React to Sanction Changes? Evidence form the English Premier League, Scottish Journal of Political Economy 52 (4) pp. 623-640
Witt R, Witte AD (2000) Crime, Prison and Female Labour Supply, Journal of Quantitative Criminology 16 (1) pp. 69-85
Witt R, Witte AD (1998) Crime, Imprisonment, and Female Labor Force Participation: A Time-Series Approach., NBER Working Paper No. 6786
Rapidly growing prison population in the US has led to an upsurge of interest in discerning the impact of this costly increase on crime rates. Estimates of impact vary. We obtain new estimates of the impact of prisons using different data, specification and estimation technique than previous work. We find that both higher levels of imprisonment and increases in labor force participation of women are related to significantly higher crime rate. The impact of female labor force participation is much larger than the impact of imprisonment.
Reilly B, Witt R (1994) Regional House Prices and possessions in England and Wales: An Empirical Analysis, Regional Studies 28 (5) pp. 475-482
Rickman N, Witt R (2008) Favouritism and financial incentives: A natural experiment, Economica 75 (298) pp. 296-309
Principals who exercise favouritism towards certain agents may harm those who are not so favoured. We address this issue in the context of a natural experiment from English soccer. We study the effects of professional referees on a common measure of referee bias: length of injury time in close matches. We find that referees exercised a degree of favouritism prior to professionalism but not afterwards, having controlled for selection and soccer-wide effects. We also discuss the suitability of the variable that we, and others, use to measure favouritism, noting that alternative interpretations may be possible.
Temple P, Witt R, Spencer C (2004) Institutions and Long-Run Growth in the UK: the Role of Standards., University of Surrey School of Economics Discussion Paper DP 19/07.
In this paper we consider the relationship between the standards created by national
standards bodies and long run economic growth, exploring the relationship in the
context of the UK and the British Standards Institution (BSI). We suggest that standards
provide a key enabling mechanism for the widespread diffusion of major technologies,
while being generally supportive of incremental innovation and general technological
understanding. In order to further understanding of this mechanism we measure the
?output? of the BSI by estimating the size of the BSI ?catalogue? available to the economy
since its inception in 1901. The measure allows us to estimate an augmented production
function for the UK economy over the period 1948-2002. Within a co-integrating
framework, we find a statistically significant and unique co-integrating vector between
labour productivity, the capital-labour ratio, exogenous technological progress and the
BSI catalogue. The long-run elasticity of labour productivity with respect to the standards
stock is estimated to be about 0.05, so that the rapid growth of the catalogue in the postwar
period is associated with about 13% of the aggregate growth in labour productivity.
Witte AD, Queralt M, Witt R, Griesinger H (2002) The Policy Context and Infant and Toddler Care in the Welfare Reform Era., NBER Working Paper No. 8893
We provide descriptive evidence from Miami-Dade County (MDC), FL and from five representative areas in Massachusetts (MA) that government policies governing welfare reform, the child-care subsidy system and minimum-standards regulation have had considerable impact on the availability, price, and quality of infant and toddler care, as welfare reform progressed from 1996 to 2000. Among our more interesting findings are the following: (1) There has been more than a doubling of the number of low-income infants and toddlers with child care subsidies in formal care in MDC, an area where cash assistance recipients are required to be active when their youngest child is three years old; and (2) Child care centers in both MA and MDC appear to be subsidizing their infant and toddler programs; this helps to explain why it has been difficult to expand the amount of infant and toddler care available.
Fielding NG, Clarke A, Witt R (2000) The Economic Dimensions of Crime, Palgrave Macmillan
Reilly B, Witt R (2011) Disciplinary Sanctions in English Premiership Football: Is There a Racial Dimension?, Labour Economics 18 (3) pp. 360-370
This paper assesses the evidence for a racial difference in both the dispensation of formal disciplinary sanctions and in the number of fouls called by referees in professional football. The study uses a unique dataset comprising player match-level information drawn from five recent seasons of the English Premiership. These data were merged with data from other sources to identify, among other things, the racial affiliation of the player across four separate categories (viz., white, black, mixed race, and Asian). No systematic evidence of an unfair treatment of players from the non-white minority groups in respect of either the receipt of disciplinary cards or in the number of penalised fouls called by referees was detected.
Bachan R, Reilly B, Witt R (2014) Team Performance and Race: Evidence from the English and French National Soccer Teams, Applied Economics 46 (13) pp. 1535-1546
Lemke RJ, Witte AD, Queralt M, Witt R (2000) Child Care and the Welfare to Work Transition., NBER Working Paper No. 7583
We assess the role of child care in the welfare to work transition using an unusually large and comprehensive data base. Our data are for Massachusetts, a state that began welfare reform in 1995 under a federal waiver, for the period July 1996 through August 1997. We find that both the nature of the child care market and the availability of subsidized care and early education affect the probability that current and former welfare recipients will work. Regarding the child care market, we find that the cost, stability and quality of care matter. We also find that child care subsidies and some types of early education serve to increase employment. To be more specific, we find that increased funding for child care subsidies and the availability of full day kindergarten significantly increase the probability the current and former welfare recipients work.
Reilly B, Witt R (2008) Domestic burglaries and the real price of audio-visual goods: Some time series evidence for Britain, Economics Letters 100 (1) pp. 96-100
Rickman N, Witt R (2007) The determinants of employee crime in the UK, Economica 74 (293) pp. 161-175
Witte AD, Queralt M, Witt R (2000) Changes in the Availability, Quality and Price of Child Care in Massachusetts Between 1997 to 1999., Wellesley College Working Paper 2000, 2000-12.
Witt R, Clarke A, Fielding N (1999) Crime and Economic Activity: A Panel Data Approach, British Journal of Criminology 39 (3) pp. 391-400
Clements MP, Witt R (2005) Forecasting Quarterly Aggregate Crime Series, The Manchester School 76 (6) pp. 709-727
Reilly B, Witt R (2007) The Determinants of Base Pay and the Role of Race in Major League Soccer: Evidence from the 2007 League Season, University of Surrey School of Economics Discussion Paper DP 19/07 pp. 1-27
This paper examines pay determination in the labor market of a professional team sport
hitherto neglected by researchers in the U.S. Using data on 361 Major League Soccer
(MLS) players for one recent league season, mean and median regression models are
exploited to investigate salary determinants. In comport with the available empirical
evidence on racial pay discrimination in other professional team sports in the U.S., this
study finds no overall evidence of pay disadvantage for non-white players. However,
there is tentative evidence that black players who are not U.S. citizens actually fare
worse than some other groups in salary terms
Fielding NG, Clarke A, Witt R (2000) The Economic Dimensions of Crime, Palgrave Macmillan
Draca M, Machin S, Witt R (2011) Panic on the Streets of London: Police, Crime, and the July 2005 Terror Attacks, American Economic Review 101 (5) pp. 2157-2181
In this paper we study the causal impact of police on crime, looking at what happened to crime and police before and after the terror attacks that hit central London in July 2005. The attacks resulted in a large redeployment of police officers to central London as compared to outer London. During this time, crime fell significantly in central relative to outer London. The instrumental variable approach we use uncovers an elasticity of crime with respect to police of approximately ?0.3 to ?0.4, so that a 10 percent increase in police activity reduces crime by around 3 to 4 percent.
Clarke A, Fielding N, Witt R (2000) Crime, Unemployment and Deprivation, pp. 210-222 Macmillan Press and St. Martin's Press
Witte AD, Witt R (2001) What We Spend and What We get: Public and Private Provision of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Fiscal Studies 22 (1) pp. 1-40
Reilly B, Witt R (1996) Crime, Deterrence and Unemployment in England and Wales: An Empirical Analysis, Bulletin of Economic Research 48 (2) pp. 137-159
Witte AD, Witt R (2003) What We Spend and What We Get: Public and Private Provision of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, pp. 199-235 OUP Oxford
In providing a detailed analysis of public expenditure, the book makes an important contribution to the economics literature. There are no other texts with this breadth of coverage or depth of analysis.
Clark S, Close R, Porter A, Witt R (1978) Flow of Funds - Analysis and Forecasts: Barclays Review 1978 - Group Econ Intelligence, Barclays Review 53 (3) pp. 47-51
Reilly B, Rickman N, Witt R (2012) Robbing banks: Crime does pay - but not very much, Significance 9 (3) pp. 17-21
Robbing a bank is the staple crime of thrillers, movies and newspapers. But, say Barry Reilly, Neil Rickman and Robert Witt, bank robbery is not all it is cracked up to be. With access to a unique data set, they give us the low-down on the economics of the bank heist. © 2012 The Royal Statistical Society.
Lemke RJ, Witt R, Witte AD (2007) The transition from welfare to work, Eastern Economic Journal 33 (3) pp. 359-373
Witt R (1997) The Demand for Car Fuel Efficiency: Some Evidence for the UK, Applied Economics 29 (9) pp. 1249-1254
Reilly B, Witt R (1995) English League Transfer Prices: Is There a Racial Dimension?, Applied Economics Letters 2 (7) pp. 220-222
Reilly B, Witt R (1992) Regional Crime and Unemployment in Scotland: An Econometric Analysis, Scottish Journal of Political Economy 39 (2) pp. 213-228
Kirchmaier T, Machin S, Sandi M, Witt R (2018) Prices, Policing and Policy: The Dynamics of Crime Booms and Busts, Centre for Economic Performance Discussion Papers Centre for Economic Performance
In many historical episodes, the extent of criminal activity has displayed booms and busts. One
very clear example is the case of metal crime, where in the face of big increases in value driven
by world commodity prices, the incidence of metal thefts in the UK (and elsewhere) rose very
sharply in the 2000s. Early in the current decade, they fell sharply again. This paper studies the
roles of prices, policing and policy in explaining these crime dynamics. The empirical analysis
shows sizeable and significant metal crime-price elasticities, in line with the idea that changing
economic returns do shape crime. However, the rapid upward and downward trends are not
only due to price changes. Their temporal evolution is also explained by changes in policing
and policy. On the former, a difference-in-differences approach is used to document an
important role of policing as a consequence of an anti-metal crime operation introduced in 2012.
On the latter, the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 is exploited to study the
impact of policy on the economic activity of scrap metal dealers in England and Wales. Results
from our difference-in-differences specification suggest that the tougher regulatory system
introduced by the policy hindered the economic activity of pre-existing dealers, reflecting the
reduced market size for potential metal criminals to sell what they have stolen.