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I would like to know if I should use was or may have been in the following example:

In this study, we found that crime rates increased by 30%. Although several factors may have influenced this result, appointing the most influential factors is difficult.

  1. Perhaps the increase in crime rates was mostly influenced by the increase in unemployment, which increased by 46% during the study period.

  2. Perhaps the increase in crime rates may have been mostly influenced by the increase in unemployment, which increased by 46% during the study period.

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Both the word "perhaps" and the verb form "may have been," indicate that you are speculating. Each one carries the meaning of "maybe".

You do not need both of them in your sentence. So you should use your first example.

Perhaps the increase in crime rates was mostly influenced by the increase in unemployment, which increased by 46% during the study period.

The second sentence is redundant and sounds overly cautious, even timid.

  • Though sometimes it is appropriate to indicate more caution and uncertainty. What counts as "overly cautious" depends on context, purpose, and audience. – SamBC Feb 4 at 16:35

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