NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Studies Attribute Crime Decline to Strong Economy

August 15, 2000

Several recent studies credit America's economic boom with helping to reduce the crime rate. Specifically, the tight labor market is offering job opportunities to those who might otherwise be attracted to a life of serious misbehavior.

  • In a study last year, labor economists Richard B. Freeman of Harvard University and William M. Rodgers III of the College of William and Mary concluded that the 2.6 percentage point fall in the U.S. unemployment rate between 1992 and 1997 accounted for about a 3.9 percent decrease in crimes per youth.
  • In comparison, they said, the increase in apprehension and incarceration for crimes accounted for about a 3.7 percent decrease in crimes per youth.
  • Another analysis by economists Jared Bernstein and Ellen Houston, of the Economic Policy Institute, argues that the trends noted in earlier research have only strengthened over the past few years -- as America's record-breaking economic expansion barrels on.
  • They note that it has only been since 1996 that the economy has been strong enough to substantially advance opportunities for those most likely to commit crimes -- suggesting that the largest impact on crime has yet to come.

Source: Charles J. Whalen, "It's About Jobs, Stupid," Business Week, August 21-28, 2000.


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