In the best selling economics book by Steven Levitt, Freakonomics, the authors dedicate a chapter to why crime has fallen. The authors systematically eliminate reasons why the crime rate in the United States has fallen. The authors eliminate more police protection, better crime solving techniques, and other factors that could relate to the reduction of crime. The authors postulate that the legalization of abortion could be a contributing factor to the decrease in crime.
In this blog, I postulate that the crime rate has fallen because of a change in social forces. Before I advance my theory, The Economist, has a brilliant article here. Marginal Revolution opines that the crime rate is higher than you think. The WSJ has an excellent article, Hard Times Fewer Crimes.
In my theory, wealth is built up through savings, investment, endowments, business endeavors, patents, and monopoly power, and luck. When wealth is accumulated by an individual they want to satisfy more wants and needs so they move to the suburbs.
This move has two effects. One, the area from where the individual moved is now bereft of money and motivation of robbery. Two, as income increases income per capita increases, tax revenues increase, government spending increases, new opportunities to create wealth increase, and the motivation to steal, rob, and loot diminish. What I call a change in social forces simply means that wealth has been redistributed and society has changed as well.
In this 2006 USA Today article, it is reported that social programs are expanding at record rates.
Crime has been steadily falling since the 1970's. There are many reasons that could have been the cause. It is my contention that the greatest cause is the shift in income that changes incentives.