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After the Epidemic: Recent Trends in Youth Violence in the United States

  • Philip J. Cook
  • John H. Laub

The epidemic of youth violence in the United States peaked in 1993 and has been followed by a rapid, sustained drop. In parallel with our earlier treatment (Cook and Laub 1998), we assess two types of explanation for this drop -- those that focus on 'cohort' effects (including the effects of abortion legalization) and those that focus on 'period' effects (including the effects of the changing crack-cocaine trade). Once again we are able to reject the cohort-type explanations, yet also find contradictions with an account based on the dynamics of crack markets. The 'way out' of this epidemic has not been the same as the 'way in.' The relative importance in homicide of youths, racial minorities, and guns, all of which increased greatly during the epidemic, has remained high during the drop. Arrest patterns tell a somewhat different story, in part because of changing police practice with respect to aggravated assault. Finally, we demonstrate that the rise and fall of youth violence has been narrowly confined with respect to race, sex, and age, but not geography. Given the volatility in the rates of juvenile violence, forecasting rates is a risky business indeed. Effectively narrowing the range of plausible explanations for the recent ups and downs may require a long time horizon, consideration of a broader array of problem behaviors, and comparisons with trends in other countries.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8571.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8571.

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Date of creation: Oct 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Tonry, Michael (ed.) Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8571
Note: HE
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. repec:reg:rpubli:71 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Steven D. Levitt & Lance Lochner, 2001. "The Determinants of Juvenile Crime," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 327-374 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Risky Behavior Among Youths: An Economic Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nevin, Rick, 1999. "How lead exposure relates to temporal changes in IQ, violent crime, and unwed pregnancy," MPRA Paper 35324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. 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.
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