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Did Crime Rise or Fall During the Reagan Presidency? The Effects of an "Aging" U.S. Population on the Nation's Crime Rate

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 28 Issue: 3 Dated: (August 1991) Pages: 330-359
D Steffensmeier; M D Harer
Date Published
30 pages
Age-standardization methods are applied to the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Crime Survey (NCR) between 1980 and 1988 (the Reagan presidency) to determine whether the decrease in the nation's crime rate was related to changes in the population's age structure.
The findings show that the age-adjusted crime index increased 7 percent in the UCR, but declined by 7 percent in the NCS; there was a 4 percent drop in the crude UCR index rate and a 17 percent drop in the crude NCS index rate. Overall, the age adjustment explained the total drop in reported or crude index rates in the UCR and about 60 percent of the drop in the NCS. Over the period between 1976 and 1980, the UCR showed rates that fluctuated but tended to rise, while the NCS showed stable or slight declining crime rates. The authors conclude that, while the anti-crime positions of the Reagan Administration resulted in higher rates of imprisonment for offenders, there was no discernible impact on the overall crime rate. 3 figures, 3 tables, 2 appendixes, 8 notes, and 35 references (Author abstract modified)