What Caused the Crime Decline? examines 14 different theories for the massive decline in crime across the country over the last two decades. It provides a rigorous empirical analysis conducted by a team of economics and criminal justice researchers on over 40 years of data, gathered from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities.
Over the past 40 years, states across the country have sought to fight crime by implementing policies to increase incarceration. The result: The United States is now the largest jailor in the world. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its prisoners.
In Texas, the prison population grew by 316 percent from 1980 to 2013. The state has seen one of the more remarkable shifts in its prison population. Since its peak in 1999, Texas cut its number of prisoners by 10.5 percent, to 168,280 by 2013. In 2004, Texas had the nation’s second highest incarceration rate; it now has the fourth highest despite a slight uptick in 2013. As incarceration grew in the 1990s, there was a 205 percent increase in corrections costs. Texas spent $3.191 billion on corrections in 2013. At the same time, between 1988 and 2013, crime in Texas dropped by 54 percent. And the national crime rate was cut in half.
What caused this drop? Was it the explosion in incarceration? Or was it something else?