Explaining the Past and Projecting Future Crime Rates

By James Austin, Todd Clear, and Richard Rosenfeld
September 2020

The American public, like citizens elsewhere, care about current and future levels of crime and the factors that drive them. But policymakers, who can greatly influence such factors, often lack knowledge from careful studies on the causes and control of crime to guide their decisions. HFG commissioned three leading criminologists to address this deficit by developing a predictive model of national violent and property crime rates.

The researchers identified a small set of demographic, economic, and criminal-justice variables whose changes over nearly four decades closely track trends in crime. As in previous research, they found that higher incarceration is associated with lower crime—but only to a limited degree. And, more important, they found that other factors, such as manufacturing employment or the population’s proportion of young people, combine to have a greater influence on crime than does incarceration.

In addition to accurately tracking past crime rates, this new model can also be used for “what-if” analyses in which predictive variables are changed to obtain estimates of future crime rates. Such exercises show that, using reasonable assumptions about future levels of those variables, the United States can substantially lower its imprisonment rate without incurring an increase in crime.

Explaining the Past and Projecting Future Crime Rates provides a readable and comprehensive account of the findings and implications of this HFG study, an important resource for practitioners, policymakers, and scholars alike.

Projecting Illinois Crime Rates and the Impact of Further Prison Population Reductions

By James Austin, Todd Clear, and Richard Rosenfeld
November 2020

Violence and the Pandemic: Urgent Questions for Research

By Manuel Eisner and Amy Nivette
April 2020

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll in lives, illness, and economic devastation. There is another domain in which this disease is having diverse effects—violence—which makes it of special interest to The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, which is dedicated to the production of knowledge in the service of reducing violence. The implications of the pandemic for current and future violence trends are the topic of Violence and the Pandemic: Urgent Questions for Research by Manuel Eisner (University of Cambridge and University of Zurich) and Amy Nivette (Utrecht University). Their thoughtful consideration of the mechanisms that drive spikes in some forms of violence and drops in others suggests timely and compelling opportunities for crucial social-science research that can complement the urgent efforts in the biomedical community to reduce the damage this disease is inflicting on our global community.

Did De-Policing Cause the 2015 Homicide Spike?

By Richard Rosenfeld and Joel Wallman
May 2020

The White Power Movement at War on Democracy

By Kathleen Belew
January 2021

The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was only the most recent violent incident demonstrating the enduring threat of the white power movement, a transnational cause that took form in the 1980s but has older historical roots. In this HFG Research and Policy in Brief, The White Power Movement at War on Democracy, University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew relates the origins of the white power movement and connects its most violent manifestations–from the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 to the 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol—as part of a global, distributed effort to assert and maintain white dominance. In doing so, she exhorts scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement officials to understand and address disparate acts of violence as part of a larger movement.

“Who Got the Camera?” Bringing Race and Police Killings into Focus

By Rod K. Brunson
March 2021

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May of 2020 engendered an outcry over police killings of unarmed Black citizens that spread beyond the Black communities long aware of such incidents and accustomed to protesting against them. In “Who Got the Camera?,” Rod Brunson, the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Professor of Public Life in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, summarizes a body of research, including his own key studies, that is crucial for understanding the problem of police killings of Black Americans. He explains that Black citizens resent aggressive over-policing but also what they perceive to be police ineffectiveness in reducing serious crimes in their communities. He also suggests that minority attitudes toward police could be improved by police consistently employing the principles of procedural justice.

Mass Shootings: Causes and Prevention

By Mark Obbie
April 2021

In the week this research synthesis was released by HFG, CNN reported that 45 mass shootings had occurred in the U.S. in the previous month. While not a new phenomenon, such violent events have again moved near the top of the American issue agenda. In Mass Shootings: Causes and Prevention, criminal justice journalist Mark Obbie presents key findings from leading research on mass shootings. Obbie summarizes a compendium of recent studies suggesting that restricting access to high-capacity weapons, building more effective early-warning systems, and creating a reliable process for data collection could greatly reduce the frequency and toll of this very American type of violence.

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