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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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15354.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15354.

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Date of creation: Sep 2009
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Publication status: published as Dave E. Marcotte & Sara Markowitz, 2011. "A cure for crime? Psycho‚Äźpharmaceuticals and crime trends," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(1), pages 29-56, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15354
Note: HE LE PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact Of Legalized Abortion On Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420, May.
  2. Philip J. Cook, 2008. "Assessing Urban Crime And Its Control: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 13781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Evans, William N. & Owens, Emily G., 2007. "COPS and crime," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 181-201, February.
  4. 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.
  5. Raphael, Steven & Winter-Ember, Rudolf, 2001. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 259-83, April.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Markowitz, Sara & Cuellar, Alison, 2007. "Antidepressants and youth: Healing or harmful?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(10), pages 2138-2151, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Mark Duggan, 2001. "More Guns, More Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 1086-1114, October.
  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. 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.
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