Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reducing Crime

The Wall Street Journal has a piece by sociologist James Wilson in which he contemplates the declining crime rates across the country and possible reasons for the phenomenon.

Since the 1960s it's been conventional wisdom that high crime rates, particularly among African Americans, were directly correlated to joblessness and poverty. Thus it was expected that when we entered tough economic times crime would once again increase. Wilson argues that this view simply doesn't fit the data - crime is actually decreasing, even during the current recession.

Some of the reasons will not be welcome among liberals, others will make conservatives uncomfortable, but they're all compelling. They include higher and longer incarceration rates, better policing (including emphasis on maintaining a presence in high crime areas), better self-protection measures available to citizens, a decrease in the popularity of hard drug use, lower lead levels in the environment, and abortion.

For an explanation of how each of these has helped to reduce criminal behavior read the full article. It's pretty interesting.

Ugly Ducklings Make Beautiful Swans

Were you something of an outcast in high school? Did you find yourself shunned by the "popular" crowd? If so, you can take heart from this article in the LA Times:
In seven years of reporting from American middle and high schools, I've seen repeatedly that the differences that cause a student to be excluded in high school are often the same traits or skills that will serve him or her well after graduation.

Examples abound: Taylor Swift's classmates left the lunch table as soon as she sat down because they disdained her taste for country music. Last year, the Grammy winner was the nation's top-selling recording artist.

Students mocked Tim Gunn's love of making things; now he is a fashion icon with the recognizable catchphrase "Make it work."

J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling "Harry Potter" series, has described herself as a bullied child "who lived mostly in books and daydreams." It's no wonder she went on to write books populated with kids she describes as "outcasts and comfortable with being so."

For many, says Sacred Heart University psychology professor Kathryn LaFontana, high school is the "first foray into the adult world where [kids] have to think about their own status." And for teenagers, says LaFontana, who studies adolescent peer relationships and social status, "the worst thing in the world is to be different from other people; that's what makes someone unpopular."

In the rabidly conformist school environment, the qualities that make people different make them targets. In adulthood, however, the qualities that make people different make them compelling.
If you've always felt like a social misfit in school you should know that the people who make you feel that way are often going nowhere once high school ends and that people like you time and again turn out to be the world's heroes.

Read the rest of the article to find out why.