Freakanomics: bad economy = deadlier terrorists & more crime?

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (authors of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics) have been looking at research into the correlation between economic conditions and the quality of suicide terrorism. They suggest that poor economic conditions lead to more able, better-educated individuals to participate in terror attacks, allowing terror organizations to send better-qualified terrorists to more complex, higher-impact, terror missions. The research was carried using data from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Furthermore the New York Times has looked at crime rates and the level of unemployment in New York City- see graph. The main findings were:

1970’s – stagflation and abandonment of neighbourhoods and rising crime rates
1981 – recession – 107,495 robberies reported compare that with 21,787 reported in 2008
1987 – the stock market crash and NYC had historically high murders

Every recession since the late ’50s has been associated with an increase in crime and, in particular, property crime and robbery, which would be most responsive to changes in economic conditions. There is a year lag between the economic change and crime rates.

Between 1993 and 2008 NYC had seen a drastic drop in crime, economists and sociologists have debated how much of the success was attributable to new trends in policing and how much to other factors, including a growing economy. To the contrary some have argued that it is in boom periods that crime has the potential to be at high levels as there are more people walking the street or using ATM machines. Click here to see Freakanomics blog posting.


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