Record low murder rate

If 2013 keeps going the way it has BEEN going, crime-wise, we are about to experience the LOWEST MURDER RATE SINCE 1906. That’s according to Rick Nevin, an economic consultant and anti-lead activist.
That’s not just lower than when WE were kids. That’s lower than when our grannies and even great-grandparents were kids.

Mr. Nevin attributes this to less exposure to lead these days. Others have attributed it to legal abortion. Or to better policing or more cautious lifestyles.

So Dopers, what is it that’s causing this massive decrease in violence in our society?

And for a bonus question, why are most people still convinced that crime is bad and only getting worse?

Well that’s an easy one. People always think that the times they are living in are bad, and that it was better either when they were kids or in some golden ago past they believe existed. Also, today with 24 hour news and the internet, we see constant stories of people being murdered or other bad things happening, and there is no context that most people can grasp to put the numbers into perspective. This is a country of literally hundred of millions, so when people see the nightly news talking about X number of people killed by the latest maniac they think that’s a huge number…and since we have those 24 hour news networks and the internet they know about it immediately, often while events are still happening. In the past, something like that might have happened in some small city or town and no one outside of the immediate area knew about it for days, weeks, months or years…or ever.

Basically, people suck at risk analysis, and they aren’t very good at judging relative risk.

Obviously it’s the massive gun control we’ve enacted in the last 20+ years that has lead to this. :wink: My WAG is that, despite how grim some folks think things in the US are, we are actually an incredibly rich society, and this has lead to less violence over time. In addition, while I won’t say racism is gone, it’s been lowered, and minorities have more freedom to expand their situations. We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way.

All crime is down, and has been going down for a while. Nobody is really sure why. Controlled experimentation to determine the answer is difficult. Let’s all just be happy about it and believe our own pet theories about why this is happening instead of arguing about it.

No one knows for sure - and it’s not just happening in our society. It’s a trend being seen all across the developed world.

Isn’t it nice that at least one trend we see today is a positive one? :slight_smile:

But wouldn’t it be better to study and figure out why this is happening, so that if/when the crime rate rises again we can have a good idea of what might fix it?

Andrew Sullivan had a fascinating thread a couple years ago that discussed this question. One idea that stuck in my brain was that the decline in crime is due in part to the rise in…video games. Check out the posts here and here.

I do legitimately think that environmental improvements (not just lead, but also clean air and water) have played in to this.

Obviously rising economic tides help as well, but this latest recession has not had the spike in violent crime typically associated with these sorts of down-turns.

I also do wonder if there is something biological or deeply cultural about mores towards violence. I read about public spectacles of torture and execution just a few hundred years ago and it boggles the mind. There are very few places in the world where that sort of thing could happen today, and yet it wasn’t that long ago that they were common in the most “civilized” cultures in the world.

My guess would be the internet as well as computer gaming. I have always believed that identitiy issues can lead to bad behavior. The internet and computers have supplied an entire world with a new source for identity development.

There’s the abortion theory.

I didn’t say don’t study it, but I think the likely outcome is more harm than good. Some study will be accepted though it will be based on tenuous conclusions, and it will make it’s way into someone’s flawed social engineering plan. One day in the future when you are chained to a video game, forced to play day and night for someone else’s profit, you’ll regret that study.

Wimpification! :mad:

Not all people are equally likely to commit violence. In all societies, at all times, males commit violence than women, and males aged about 15-30 commit more than small children and older men.

Instead of measuring murders per 100,000 people per year, it would be interesting to measure murders per 100,000 males age 15-30 per year. The proportion of young people in the population as a whole has gone down recently in most of the world, which might explain why crime is lower.

I strongly recommend Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of our Nature. This video presents a snapshot of his theories. He attributes the drop in violence to a number of factors, including:

-Increased trade (yes, capitalism decreases violence!)
-Increased democracy
-Increased concern for human rights
-Improved policing techniques
-Changing cultural norms

He makes the Starving Artist (?) case that the do-what-you-want attitude of the sixties led to increased violence, but I’m still not sure I buy that case; he didn’t really show any cause and effect relationship, but rather just imagined that it might be there.

Otherwise, though, I found the book profoundly interesting, and it hits directly on this question.

Well think of how low it would be if we confiscated all the guns and a white guy was in office.

I think it has something to do with the advent of video games and internet porn. The guys who would otherwise have been outside killing each other are home playing Far Cry and cruising the internet.

I’m going with the lead theory. The evidence in its favor seems pretty overwhelming.

Declining sperm counts.

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned it but we also incarcerate more people for longer periods of time than we did a few decades ago. The 1950s and 60s was a pretty good time to be a criminal. If you committed a serious crime there was a good chance you wouldn’t get caught and if you were caught you probably wouldn’t serve for very long.

I don’t really know if our incarceration rate is a factor but I thought I’d throw it out there.

This may also have a snowballing effect, where there is less of a culture of violence due to the graying of America.

But also, a culture of violence leads to a culture of violence. The way you deal with the fact that violence is all around is to become capable of dishing out violence yourself. Then you’re part of handing down the culture of violence to everyone around you.

So, rising violence leads to rising violence and falling violence leads to falling violence. War breeds war, peace breeds peace.

My pet theory is that WIC and other social welfare programs are at least partly responsible. Early malnutrition can permanently screw up the brain and has been linked with aggression, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This is why I am against cutting food stamps. If the idea of hungry kids doesn’t tug at your heart strings, maybe a bullet to the head will.

We are also much better at diagnosing kids who are at-risk for future violence or emotional disturbance. I know people roll their eyes at all the ADHD/ADD diagnoses, but these kids could very well be akin to the “incorrigible” children we all went to school with back in the day. The ones who dropped out in the tenth grade and became criminals. Now these kids graduate from high school and have success.

See: U.S. violent crime down for fifth straight year

Above link from CNN is dated October 29, 2012 and is based on crime reported to US police.

Also see: U.S. violent crime up for first time in years

Above link from CNN is dated October 17, 2012 and is based on the US victiminzation survey.

Long term trend is good, but US homicide rates remain higher than in other westernized countries, and I wouldn’t rely too much on the OP link.