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Is Small Beautiful?: The Link Between Risks and Size in Illegal Drug Markets

NCJ Number
Global Crime Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2011 Pages: 70-86
Date Published
February 2011
17 pages

This article discusses illegal drug markets.


A well-known finding of research on illegal markets is that drug-dealing organizations operate in risky and uncertain market and intra-organizational conditions that considerably limit their size and their survival time. Yet, little is known about the organizations or individual dealers who are more successful than others at avoiding arrest and incarceration, especially in regard to dealers operating in groups of various sizes. This article proposes to fill this gap in the literature by fitting a Cox proportional hazard model to 'time to failure' data in a sample of 112 incarcerated male inmates who were active as drug dealers in the 3 years preceding their incarceration. The results show that organizational size is unrelated to survival. Instead, the size of dealers' core criminal networks emerged as a key factor in increasing survival in the drug trade. Other results indicate that involvement in markets for certain drugs (cocaine) is more risky than others (cannabis) and that hard drug users are arrested faster than others. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: February 1, 2011