Unless you’re in a mafia clan, we all want to see crime come down. But different people approach that in different ways. Economists like to think of criminals as getting out their calculators to see if crime pays, so they focus on the impact of deterrence: increasing the severity of punishment or the likelihood of being caught.
Unfortunately, deterrence doesn’t do a great job because criminals don’t care enough about the future to pay much attention to jail terms. And of course everyone knows that reducing crime goes beyond more police or prisons – it’s about people’s roles in society.
Specifically, it’s about babies, a new paper from researchers in California demonstrates. It shows crime rates among women plunging when they get pregnant. And, no, this isn’t just about it being harder to commit crime when carrying another person around. Long after giving birth, crime rates of women are 50% lower than in the years before pregnancy.
Men, too, are less keen on crime and not just after the baby turns up; there is a 25% fall in crime almost as soon as their partner becomes pregnant. Having children changes how we think about ourselves and the value we place on the future. In contrast, marriage doesn’t have this kind of impact – it’s the other way round, with marriage being the result of reduced criminality rather than its cause.
This is great research. Unfortunately, the bad news is we’re having fewer babies. Oh and crime’s gone up. Coincidence?
Read more from Torsten Bell’s Top of the Charts at resolutionfoundation.org
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