Why The Great Recovery?

Only twenty years ago America was at its nadir in many social trends. Drug use was heavy among teenagers, the inner cities were decaying, crime rates were hitting the roof, and the number of abortions were appalingly high. Yet since then, almost miraculously, may of the trends have reversed itself-drug use has declined, many inner cities have started growing again, no race riot has happened since LA in 1992, and crime rates and abortion have both decline massively? So what caused this great recovery, perhaps in many ways greater than our victory over the USSR in the Cold War?

Can you provide some cites for abortion, crime and drug use twenty years ago as opposed to today?

From World Almanac and Book of Facts 2006:

It should be noted the number of crimes and abortions dropping is more dramatic then implied as population has increased.

The crime rate, at least, did fall since the early 90s. If you’ll pardon a Wikipedia article:


The abortion rate seems to have peaked in 1981 and been in decline since:

I’m finding incomplete information about drug use, but according to one study, among high schoolers, drug use actually hit a low in 1993 and has been increasing since.

Are you looking for a single answer for the changes you’ve listed? if not, you might want to tackle these subjects one at a time.

I don’t know about abortion or drugs, but the fact that the crime rate has fallen drastically since the 90s often comes up, with lots of speculation as to why. You know; “If violent video games cause violence why have people gotten less violent as video games have gotten more common and more violent?”

The argument in freakonomics was that access to abortion made the kids most likely to end up as delinquents non-existent.

Were these trends global or just in the US?

No, of course not. I’m looking for the biggest factors in general.

Perhaps because we have tougher sentencing laws now?

But abortion has gone down yet crime is still going down.

If anything it would hurt; it forces the early release of dangerous criminals to make room in overstuffed prisons, mandatory sentencing laws (passed due to fear of the largely imaginary “liberal judges”) force judges to limit sentences for more dangerous criminals, they produce a larger and larger number of people who have been in prison, they produce a larger number of people who count as criminals, etc.

“Getting tough” is a matter of self indulgent sadism on the part of the public and politicians, there’s no reason to think it lowers crime. And “getting tough” pretty much by definition is going to raise the crime rate because you are defining more people as criminals.

The Clinton administration, clearly.

No, it simply focuses on punishing those who have committed something that is already a crime. And if tougher sentencing increases crime rates why have we seen the exact opposite? Why is crime nonexistent in places like Singapore?

How? And I don’t you leftists would like a neoliberal like Clinton anyways.

No, but some of us leftists have a sense of humor…

Overall though, in times of prosperity, crime falls. I would imagine in boom times, ceteris paribus, abortion will fall, just as pregnancy rates fall as countries become more prosperous.

Not necessarily-crime rates were high during the Roaring '20s due to the Prohibition and went down even during the Great Depression.

To the degree that any of the things mentioned in the OP actually happened - the post is full of loaded wording and appears to have several facts wrong - my guess is that most of the credit goes to the economic growth seen throughout most of the '90s.

Of course they were. Think about this for a moment and I bet you will realize why the outlawing of alcohol was associated with an increase in crime.

Come on - you yourself have provided the reason there. In general, crime falls with prosperity. That doesn’t mean you cannot have times of increasing prosperity and increasing crime.

You can always pull individual situations out to counter general rules. But the downward path of murder in NYC is not generally considered to be interrupted by the 9/11 attacks, for example.

I already knew that, thank you very much.

Seconded. Imagine all the “super predators” (not the left’s term – google it) that would be coming of age had Roe v. Wade been overturned as Clinton’s adversaries wanted. Definitely a major factor.

So why did abortions decrease?

Again, the end of welfare as we know it. No more girls having babies as a career. (I’m assuming that was as widespread as some of you people said?)

Ditto continued access to birth control.

I’m being slightly tongue in cheek here, in tacet comment to the alacrity of the OP.

Access to abortion may also have made the kids most likely to end up getting abortions non-existent.

(No, I’m not being totally facetious. :cool: )

Yep - specifically Clinton passed the crime bill in 1994, which put 100,000 extra officers on the streets and gave prosecutors more tools to use to get convictions.

And then Al Gore invented the internet. :wink: Or rather Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in the early 90’s and Mosaic was released in 1993. The Clinton administration was smart enough to see its potential and gave it tremendous support.

And the Internet is used for more than porn and the Straight Dope. It’s primary purpose was to share research between academics and defense department scientists. A secondary purpose was to share information between government levels and the public. And while the general public may not delve that deeply into that side of the internet, a great many policy wonks do.

Prior to the Internet, most sharing of best practices and new research were limited to a few journals and conferences - and while it was common for most states and larger cities and counties to send attendees, most cities did not, and even then dissemination was slow. The internet sped up information sharing and access. NGOs also became a bigger player, often able to move into gaps that governments left, and able to try pilot projects in lieu of gov. programs.

So governments have been able to use resources better and achieve tangible results in reducing crime, alleviating poverty, and fighting drug use. Though I am not sure how much that last one has decreased. While the crack epidemic seems under control, the meth plague doesn’t seem to be diminishing. And inner cities still have a long way to go before they return to their hey day of pre-WWII.

And the trend of information sharing is still building. By the 2012 election, there will be apps showing a candidates entire record, all their speeches, and the list of their campaign donors. There will be apps showing all the demographic data for any given zip code - crime rate, (heck, maybe even notifications of crimes in progress), school data, building and business permits, tax dollars collected and spent. The fun one I am waiting for is an employer data app - it would give you the equivalent information that applicants have to provide. They will run credit and background checks on us, and we will run the same on them.

In other words, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Side note: It is scary to think of what our opportunity cost is of the prior administration’s policies. If the money not wasted in Iraq or lost due to the non-regulation of the financial markets had been available to local governments, our crime rates would probably be insanely low, and graduation rates insanely high. The public policy fight would be on how fast we could build universities to absorb the increase in high school graduates, and if we should have vouchers for college or not, instead of elementary schools. We have lost an entire decade of meaningful development in this country, and possibly another cleaning up the mess.