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A cure for crime? Psycho‐pharmaceuticals and crime trends

  • Dave E. Marcotte
  • Sara Markowitz

In this paper we consider possible links between the advent and diffusion of a number of new psychiatric pharmaceutical therapies and crime rates. We describe recent trends in crime and review the evidence showing mental illness as a clear risk factor both for criminal behavior and victimization. We then briefly summarize the development of a number of new pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of mental illness which diffused during the "great American crime decline." We examine limited international data, as well as more detailed American data to assess the relationship between crime rates and rates of prescriptions of the main categories of psychotropic drugs, while controlling for other factors which may explain trends in crime rates. We find that increases in prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are associated with decreases in violent crime, with the largest impacts associated with new generation antidepressants and stimulants used to treat ADHD.

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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Volume (Year): 30 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (December)
Pages: 29-56

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:30:y:2011:i:1:p:29-56
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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  1. Mark Duggan, 2000. "More Guns, More Crime," NBER Working Papers 7967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Markowitz, Sara & Cuellar, Alison, 2007. "Antidepressants and youth: Healing or harmful?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(10), pages 2138-2151, May.
  3. Donohue, John J. & Levitt, Steven D., 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt00p599hk, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  4. Raphael, Steven & WINTER-EBMER, RUDOLF, 1998. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5hb4h56g, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  5. Philip J. Cook, 2008. "Assessing Urban Crime And Its Control: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 13781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Evans, William N. & Owens, Emily G., 2007. "COPS and crime," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 181-201, February.
  7. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," NBER Working Papers 13097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  9. Jeff Grogger & Michael Willis, 2000. "The Emergence Of Crack Cocaine And The Rise In Urban Crime Rates," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 519-529, November.
  10. Alison Cuellar & Sara Markowitz, 2006. "Medicaid Policy Changes in Mental Health Care and Their Effect on Mental Health Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Reyes Jessica Wolpaw, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-43, October.
  12. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-58, August.
  13. Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 163-190, Winter.
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