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February 12, 2016


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Crude demographics ultimately mean very little. The size of working-age cohorts in eastern Europe might have fallen since the 1980s, but that shrinkage has nothing to do with the propensity of working-age eastern Europeans to migrate. At most, the numbers of eastern Europeans at all are smaller.

Hi Randy! I'm not 100% sure what you're getting at with the comparison. Could you explain a little more?

A smaller youth bulge may well contribute to falling crime rates, even in a non-linear manner. I would still argue that cultural changes, and economic changes, will have more of an impact.

If you buy the lead-as-driver of crime theory then Mexico should get a boost there. Don't quote me but I believe they banned leaded gas in like 1998.

Patrick: hmmm. Maybe I should see what kind of numbers are available on that for Latin American countries. Was the recent crime explosion across the hemisphere south of the Rio Grande driven by lead exposure, or does it punch some holes in the theory?

Randy: gotcha! That's a good example. Other factors swamp these effects. For example, violence continued to dramatically increase in the United States between 1970 and 1990, while the population in the 15-29 age group remained roughly stable at 24%. (It is now 21%.)

Could you E-mail me?

Noel not sure, I'll have to check into that. I expect Central America will punch some holes into the theory.


Thanks for your insighful comments. I offer two rejoinders:

1. The technological argument was mostly about the relative decline of cash-based transactions over the long run. My take is that in a society with little cash, some forms of crime will become almost impossible (robbing banks at gunpoint), others will become more difficult (kidnapping for ransom), and some will become far more prevalent and lucrative (e.g., identity theft). I speculate that the resulting crime mix might end up being less gun-intensive and more brain-heavy, while also extending the physical distance between victim and offender.

About the drug markets, this is my super speculative take: the rise of online markets might be able to cut the middlemen, even at the wholesale level. A small cocaine refiner in Colombia might be able to get in touch with a small-time distributor in New York and then find a way to send him the stuff without going through large-scale drug trafficking organizations. How? Licit trade, the postal service, a relative flying to the US, etc. The distributor would then pay via Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency. After all, any given producer would be sending small quantities that might be more difficult to detect (Here's an interesting factoid in support of that possibility: in Australia, something like two-thirds of all drug seizures take place in the postal service). If that happened, then Mexican narcos (middlemen in nature) would be gradually frozen out the picture. I may be way wrong, but I don't think the idea is crazy.

2. Yes, my demographic analysis is way too crude. Propensity for violence might change between different cohorts of the same age-group. But I do think there is something to the idea that gradual aging of the population might produce violence-repressing tendencies. I might be wrong about the timeframe (maybe this is something that plays out over centuries and not decades), but I would be surprised if a society with far less young men is not somewhat more peaceful.

Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting my stuff.

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