Crime statistics for the 2006 Canada census have recently been released and last year had apparently the lowest crime rate in 25 years.
A phenomenon in the United States that has intrigued me is the sharp drop in crime in the 1990’s. It’s especially interesting that the drop in crime seems to be secluded to the United States. During the same time period, Europe didn’t experience a drop in crime and actually saw crime increasing in some categories.
Steven D. Levitt, a Professor of Economics at University of Chicago wrote a very interesting paper in 2002-2003 explaining the reasons for the sharp decline in crime. He offers 6 factors that played little or no role in the crime decline. Many of these have been frequently used to explain the drop in crime:
1. The strong economy of the 1990’s
2. Changing demographics
3. Better policing strategies
4. Gun Control Laws
5. Laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons
6. Increased use of Capital punishment
He then goes on in his essay to offer 4 factors that explain the decline in crime:
1. Increases in the Number of Police
2. The rising prison population
3. The Receding Crack epidemic
4. The legalization of abortion
The 4th point is the most interesting one for me. The fact that legalizing abortion in 1973 could have an impact on the crime rate 20 years later is fascinating. The premise is that legalizing abortion decreases the number of unwanted babies, and unwanted and neglected children have a higher risk of becoming involved with crime. This logically makes sense but before I had first heard this theory I hadn’t ever considered it.
Another interesting point he makes is that the 5 states that legalized abortion 3 years before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision to legalize abortion experienced a drop in crime earlier than the states that legalized abortion in 1973.
I strongly encourage you to read his essay.