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Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 142 -- U.S. Crime Rate.

America's Crime Rate-

The crime rate in the U.S. is way down over the past decade.


Interestingly, it has fallen particularly precipitously among male victims. I am no criminologist, but it seems like this would indicate a drop in gang violence, perhaps.


And it's not just violent crimes. Property crime is down, as well.


Potential reasons for this decline are the expanding economy, tougher laws, tougher sentencing, more prisons, the aging of the Baby Boomers, and better enforcement of laws on the books. What about drug arrests?


Causation? Correlation? Who knows. Could the drug war have been more successful than we've been led to believe? And did the drug war have certain positive externalities on the overall crime rate?

And how about the overall incarceration rate?


More people are in prison. Some headline writers, who write things like "Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates" receive derision from conservatives (particularly James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com) for their silly lack of understanding that there is a connection between locking criminals up and less crime. The two indicators do not necessary move in tandem on a graph.

Even more interesting is the fact that this goes against the global trend:

Crime has recently hit record highs in Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto, and a host of other major cities. In a 2001 study, the British Home Office (the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Justice) found violent and property crime increased in the late 1990s in every wealthy country except the United States. American property crime rates have been lower than those in Britain, Canada, and France since the early 1990s, and violent crime rates throughout the European Union, Australia, and Canada have recently begun to equal and even surpass those in the United States. Even Sweden, once the epitome of cosmopolitan socialist prosperity, now has a crime victimization rate 20 percent higher than that of the United States.

Americans, on the other hand, have become much safer. Preliminary 2001 crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show America's tenth consecutive year of declines in crime. While our homicide rate is still substantially higher than most in Europe, it has sunk to levels unseen here since the early 1960s. Overall reported crime rates have dropped almost 40 percent from their all-time highs in the early 1970s. Reported property-crime victimization rates have dropped even more: In 1973, nearly 60 percent of American households fell victim to such crimes, by 2000 victimization had declined two-thirds to around 20 percent.

Among the economically powerful democracies in the Group of Seven, only the Japanese now have a lower victimization rate than the United States.

Fascinating trends. The author(s) of Freakonomics, of course, attribute the falling crime rate to the legalization of abortion a generation earlier, which eliminated "at-risk" young men from ever entering the population and becoming teen/adult criminals.


The NoSpeedBumps blog offers more potential reasons.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: America's Economic Outlook.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 August 2005 10:47 AM


Great post. Another factor may be that during this same period gun law restrictions have been reduced across the U.S. "Right-to-Carry" laws are now in effect in most states. See here:

And see map of Right-to-Carry states here:

Posted by: Dan Morgan at August 18, 2005 12:58 PM

Actually, I just saw that, funny enough, and am about to link to it....

Posted by: Will Franklin at August 18, 2005 01:00 PM

Excellent post. Maybe another reason is that the US economy boomed in the mid- to late 90's, and (despite misleading talk from Democrats eager to talk down Bush's performance) is doing very well even now.

Better economy = more jobs and money = less incentive to commit crime

This would also explain the rise in rates in economically stagnant Europe.

Posted by: GaijinBiker at August 19, 2005 05:42 AM

I wouldn't even put the economy into it. I am sure it has an effect, but a very small one. During the last recession, it looks as if crime rates may have slowed their drop, but crime did not (overall) increase during the latest recession.

Posted by: Shane at August 19, 2005 01:04 PM