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June 6, 2011

Still more interesting ruminations on what accounts for modern lower crime rates

Abort2 There continues to be lots of interesting MSM and new media discussion of lower modern US crime rates and the possible explanation for this good news.  Here are two news piece of note on this front:

From Professor James Fox's Boston Globe blog here, "Abortion and crime -- A missing link."  An excerpt:

Despite persuasive logic regarding a reduction in the number of children born to circumstances that would place them at-risk for growing into criminality, the significance of this effect appears to have been grossly overstated. For example, nearly 60% of the decline in murder since 1990 involved perpetrators ages 25 and older—individuals who would have been born prior to the landmark abortion decision. As shown in the figure below, there were substantial reductions during the 1990s in homicides committed by older age groups, especially those in the 25-34 year-old age range.

The abortion-crime link also cannot account for the transient surge in youth homicide during the late 1980s, if not for which the 1990s would not have witnessed such a sizable decline. The rise and then fall in youth homicide before and then after 1990 has much more to do with fast changing patterns of drug trade, gang activity and illegal gun supply than a sudden shift in abortion policy.

Finally, the abortion-crime hypothesis cannot explain the large drop in murder and other violent crime from the first six months of 2009 to the corresponding months of 2010. In fact, nothing really can.

From the Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee here, "Is California crime drop due to 'three-strikes' law?". An excerpt:

[H]ave California's crime rates fallen because the state adopted a get-tough attitude three decades ago and began locking up more of its miscreants?

The prison population surged from about 20,000 to more than 160,000 during that period as sentencing laws were beefed up, symbolized by the passage of the state's "three strikes and you're out" statute.  Supporters of the crackdown credit "three-strikes" and other sentencing laws for the steady drop in crime. Harris' remarks appear to support the view that when cops and prosecutors crack down, criminals retreat and the public is safer.

But to Robert Parker, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, that's just hot air.  As the Supreme Court was issuing its ruling and Harris was announcing a decline in violent crime, Parker was circulating his new study contending that three-strikes and other sentencing laws had virtually nothing to do with the state's decreasing violent crime rate.

Citing "logic, data and research," Parker contends that "all these uniformly show little or no impact of three strikes policy on violent crime rates in California and elsewhere."  He compared historic crime patterns in California and other states with similar laws to those without such laws and found they "show little difference in … pattern of violent crime."

Parker cites other studies that attribute crime rate declines to economic and social factors, such as alcohol consumption, rather than policing and sentencing policies and suggests it's "better to use alcohol policy to control violence than three strikes."...

His study, if nothing else, provides new fuel for the ever-burning crime debate.

A few recent related posts on how to account for still-dropping crime rates in the US:

June 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Permalink


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Why is it so difficult for the Left to admit that incapacitation reduces the rate of crime?

They twist themselves into a pretzel to try to explain away the obvious.

In my view, Professor Parker is "just hot air." Everyone knows that you cannot compare crime rates across states. Further, what specific economic and social factors does he attribute to the reduction in crime--the burgeoning non-marital birthrate, higher umemployment, or the increase in the poverty rate?

Posted by: mjs | Jun 6, 2011 11:27:51 AM

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