Study: Millennials commit less crime than past generations

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HOUSTON (CW39) — It’s no secret millennials often face criticism from older generations. Millennials have been accused of killing department stores, cable tv, canned-tuna, and processed foods.

But there may be a glimmer of hope for this generation. According to a study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, researchers have discovered that millennials commit less crime than prior generations. The age group born between 1946 and 1964, commonly known as baby boomers, was the most criminally active in modern history.

Crime has dropped since 1990. Research from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin suggests crime reduction efforts account for less than half of the crime drop since 1990 and essentially none of the crime drop since 2000.

Most attempts to find causes and solutions to crime are focused on current conditions. But researchers say current crime rates do not depend only on current conditions. Rather, crime rises and falls based on the life experiences and decisions of young children.

“Since criminal activity starts in the teens and peaks at about 18, this means improved conditions in childhood – families, neighborhoods, schools – were mostly responsible for the crime drop,” said Bill Spelman, a professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and author of the report. “The best way to reduce crime in the future is probably what caused it to drop in the first place: helping our families, neighborhoods and schools raise kids who are respectful of others and don’t need to steal to get by. It’s time we shifted focus from stopping bad guys to helping kids be good guys.”

In general, birth cohort, age and social and economic factors are about equally important in determining crime rates. Most crimes are committed by people ages 15-25, with criminal activity slowing or stopping entirely between the ages of 25 and 40, a pattern researchers call the age effect. 

In the study, researchers isolate the cohort effect: the relative criminal activity of people born in the same year. These cohorts also respond to age and period effects, so while most crime today is committed by people ages 15-25 year (millennials born between 1996 and 2006), millennials are still less criminally inclined than previous generations. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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