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Demographic Change, Macroeconomic Conditions, and the Murder Rate: The Case of the United States, 1934 to 2006

  • John M. Nunley
  • Richard Alan Seals
  • Joachim Zietz

Fluctuations in aggregate crime rates contrary to recent shifts in the age distribution of the U.S. population have cast doubt on the predictive power of the age-crime hypothesis. By examining a longer time horizon, back to the early 1930s,, we show that the percentage of the young population is a robust predictor of the observed large swings in the U.S. murder rate over time. However, changes in the misery index—the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates—significantly contribute to explaining changes in the murder rate. This applies, in particular, to those changes that are at odds with the long-run trend of the U.S. age distribution, such as the decline in the murder rate in the latter part of the 1970s or its increase starting around the middle of the 1980s.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Auburn University in its series Auburn Economics Working Paper Series with number auwp2010-04.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:abn:wpaper:auwp2010-04
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  1. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-90, June.
  2. Juselius, Katarina, 2006. "The Cointegrated VAR Model: Methodology and Applications," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199285679.
  3. Kwiatkowski, Denis & Phillips, Peter C. B. & Schmidt, Peter & Shin, Yongcheol, 1992. "Testing the null hypothesis of stationarity against the alternative of a unit root : How sure are we that economic time series have a unit root?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1-3), pages 159-178.
  4. 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.
  5. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime," NBER Working Papers 10564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. John J. Donohue, III & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  9. John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," NBER Working Papers 8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jeff Grogger, 1997. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," NBER Working Papers 5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  12. 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.
  13. Ted Joyce, 2009. "A Simple Test of Abortion and Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 112-123, February.
  14. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:407-423 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Tang, Chor Foon & Lean, Hooi Hooi, 2009. "New evidence from the misery index in the crime function," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 112-115, February.
  18. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:425-440 is not listed on IDEAS
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