Crime and Cohort Size in North America (US and Canada), 1970-2000

Paul-Philippe Pare, The Pennsylvania State University
Darrell Steffensmeier, The Pennsylvania State University

In both Canada and United States index crimes declined in the 1990s. Many commentators propose demographic explanations for the crime drop centering around age composition effects, in particular, cohort size effects As set forth by Easterlin, comparatively large cohorts are disadvantaged in two important ways: (1) they are less well off economically than relatively small cohorts in terms of employment rates and relative income; and (2) they may overload society's institutions of social control. Unfortunately, very little empirical research has addressed the relationship between changes in population structure and recent declines in the crime rate. Thus, to address this gap in the research literature, our analysis provides an empirical test of the Easterlin cohort-size hypothesis using both U.S. and Canadian data on crime and population trends. Importantly, our analysis also provides a timely comparison of U.S. and Canadian crime trends.

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Updated 05/20/2006