Millennials are an easy target, mocked for everything from their love of rosé (it’s delicious!) to living with their parents (you try entering the job market during the Great Recession). But now, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin, millennials can take the blame […]
Millennials are an easy target, mocked for everything from their love of rosé (it's delicious!) to living with their parents (you try entering the job market during the Great Recession). But now, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin, millennials can take the blame for something positive: lowering crime rates.
Crime has steadily declined since 1990, though not for reasons you might think. In a new study from UT's prestigious LBJ School of Public Affairs, and recently published in "Journal of Quantitative Criminology," researchers found that it's not crime reduction efforts but millennials themselves who are responsible for the drop. Though there is some debate about what birth years define the millennial generation (the general consensus is 1980 to 1995), the UT study defines it as those born after 1985.
It's a commonly held belief, the study notes, that current environmental conditions are the cause of current crime rates, but UT researchers have found that is not so. Rather, the study says, "crime rises and falls based on the life experiences and decisions of young children."
“Since criminal activity starts in the teens and peaks at about 18, this means improved conditions in childhood – families, neighborhoods, schools – were mostly responsible for the crime drop,” said Bill Spelman, a professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and author of the report. “The best way to reduce crime in the future is probably what caused it to drop in the first place: helping our families, neighborhoods and schools raise kids who are respectful of others and don’t need to steal to get by.”
Crime reduction efforts are responsible for less than half of the crime drop since 1990 and almost none of the crime drop since 2000, according to the study. Instead, some gun and drug policies are increasing it, Spelman says. Policies aimed at reducing delinquency in young children appear to be the most effective way to combat future crime trends.
"All this is aimed at increasing the costs of crime and reducing the benefits of it to people who are, right now, looking for criminal opportunities," Spelman said. "The paper tells us that we’re digging in the wrong place."
The study notes that birth cohort, age, and social and economic factors are all "about equally important" in determining crime rates. It also notes that most crimes are committed between the ages of 15-25, with most criminal activity sliding off at around age 25, something researchers call "the age effect." When it comes to American generations, millennials committed the fewest amount of crimes, according to the study.
So which generation committed the most? Sorry, Boomers. That distinction belongs to you.