Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Economy and Public Safety

No, the relationship between econ conditions and crime rates isn't one-to-one, but it's hard to come up with a theory of how having plenty of jobs for folks who need and want them as alternatives to criminal proceeds makes crime rates go up. Here's the release on a Justice Policy Institute study that deals with the subject:

The Justice Policy Institute today launches the second in a series of research briefs that examine the impact of positive social investments on public safety. "Employment, Wages and Public Safety," one of four briefs, finds that increased employment rates and wages are associated with public safety benefits. The release of this brief corresponds with concerns about U.S. job losses and the small uptick in the national crime rate.

Key findings from "Employment, Wages and Public Safety" include:

Increased employment is associated with positive public safety outcomes. Researchers have found that from 1992 to 1997, a time when the unemployment rate dropped 33 percent, "slightly more than 40 percent of the decline [in overall property crime rate] can be attributed to the decline in unemployment."

Increased wages are also associated with public safety benefits. Researchers have found that a 10 percent increase in wages would reduce the number of hours young men spent participating in criminal activity by 1.4 percent.

States that had higher levels of employment also had crime rates lower than the national average. Eight of the 10 states that had lower unemployment rates in the United States also had violent crime rates that were lower than the national average. In comparison, half of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates had higher violent crime rates than the national average in 2005.

The risks of incarceration, higher violent crime rates, high unemployment rates and low wages are concentrated among communities of color. Communities of color and African Americans, specifically, experience more unemployment and lower average wages than their white counterparts. At the same time, communities of color are more likely to experience higher rates of violence than are white communities, and African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated than are whites.

A previous brief examined the impact of investments in education on public safety outcomes. Upcoming briefs will examine the intersection of policies on housing and drug treatment with safety and crime rates. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To read the complete brief, see other materials on crime and public safety, or learn more about the Justice Policy Institute, visit: http://www.justicepolicy.org/.

(h/t Real Cost of Prisons)

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