What Caused the Crime Decline?

139 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2015  

Oliver K. Roeder

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice

Lauren-Brooke Eisen

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice

Julia Bowling

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Inimai M. Chettiar

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice; New York University School of Law

Date Written: February 12, 2015

Abstract

What Caused the Crime Decline? Examines one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred, by reviewing more than 40 years of data from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000.

More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population. The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique, also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it.

The report concludes that considering the immense social, fiscal, and economic costs of mass incarceration, programs that improve economic opportunities, modernize policing practices, and expand treatment and rehabilitation programs, all could be a better public safety investment.

Keywords: mass incarceration, crime, economics, criminal justice, policing

Suggested Citation

Roeder, Oliver K. and Eisen, Lauren-Brooke and Bowling, Julia and Stiglitz, Joseph E. and Chettiar, Inimai M., What Caused the Crime Decline? (February 12, 2015). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 15-28. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2566965 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2566965

Oliver K. Roeder (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

Lauren-Brooke Eisen

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.brennancenter.org/expert/lauren-brooke-eisen

Julia Bowling

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.brennancenter.org/expert/julia-bowling

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
814 Uris Hall
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-0671 (Phone)
(212) 662-8474 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.josephstiglitz.com

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Inimai M. Chettiar

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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