More Sneezing, Less Crime? Study Links High Pollen Counts to Lower Crime Rates

An allergy to pollen, medically considered hay fever, affects roughly 20 million American adults. The symptoms are well known: sinus swelling, coughing and itchy eyes.

However, beyond simply ruining your day, high pollen counts may actually be doing our society some good.

New research published in the Journal of Health and Economics finds that allergies may be curtailing criminal behavior.

Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Weather Underground detailing pollen counts from 16 cities, including New York City, researchers found that crime rates were 4 percent lower on high-pollen days.

“The effect of an unusually high pollen day on violent crime attenuates in weeks with higher average weekly pollen levels,” the report continues.

Then, to dive deeper into their findings, the researchers compared New York City’s residential versus non-residential crime data to look for a relationship between high pollen counts and crimes committed at home.

They expected to see less crimes outside and more indoors due to the pollen count, but surprisingly found the opposite.

“There is a sizable decrease (4.4 percent) in residential violence on high pollen days, and no statistically significant change in outdoor violence,” the report says.

“These findings deepen our understanding of violent behavior – in particular, the extent to which violence is responsive to situational factors,” the authors write.

While the researchers acknowledge that this is a “first stage” relationship between high pollen count and lower violence in our cities, they argued the results of their study have far-reaching implications when it comes to individual’s “situational factors,” behavior, and health.

In this study’s case, the “situational factors” are whether an individual is feeling healthy.

Monica Deza, one of the study’s authors, and an associate professor of economics at Hunter College of the City University of New York, recently spoke with The Colorado Springs Independent about the research.

Deza explained that she was inspired to examine the effects of a pollen as a “health shock” on criminal behavior because previous studies have linked things like televised football games and higher temperatures to lower crime rates.

However, none of those factors go from “0-100 in a single day” the same way pollen can, she told the Independent.

“If it takes something like a health shock to make people — to prevent this situation of domestic, residential violence,” Deza said in her interview, “maybe these programs that teach people how to think before they act — how to not respond so instantaneously with violence…might actually have long-term consequences.”

The other study authors are Aaron Chalfin of the University of Pennsylvania; and Shooshan Danagoulian of Wayne State University.

The full study, More sneezing, less crime? Health shocks and the market for offenses, is available for purchase here.

Andrea Cipriano is a staff writer for The Crime Report.

via The Crime Report

November 4, 2019 at 08:10AM

Legalized Abortions Tied to Crime Drop of 1990s

What seems to be an unlikely and “surprising” connection between legalizing abortions and a decrease in crime from 1997 and 2014 is real, according to a paper by John J. Donohue of Stanford Law School, and Steven D. Levitt of the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics.

The Donohue-Levitt study, published as a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper, was released as a follow-up to research by the same authors published in 2001, titled The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime, which found that the “five states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines [in crime] earlier than the rest of the nation,” which legalized abortion in 1973 following the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision.

Their paper comes at an awkward time politically.

Anti-abortion activists are increasingly throwing their political weight behind model legislation restricting abortion during the early stages of pregnancy. Versions of the so-called Fetal Heartbeat Bill, (also known as the LIFE Act), which declares that “abortions [are] illegal as soon as the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected,” regardless of rape or incest, have already been passed in Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio.

North Dakota passed a similar bill in 2013, but it was declared unconstitutional two years later. Iowa had its 2018 bill blocked by a state judge in January. In Mississippi and Kentucky, judges have temporarily blocked Fetal Heartbeat Bills passed earlier this year, according to Fortune.

The authors said their motivation behind the 2019 paper evolved from decades of psychological research that proved, before abortions, unwanted children were at a “higher risk for less favorable life outcomes on multiple dimensions” —another way of suggesting that such children are likely to become justice-involved during their lifetimes.

“Less favorable life outcomes” can be explained in part because of the poor socioeconomic standing in the household that unwanted children run the risk of being born into. Economic restrictions can result in living in dangerous neighborhoods, which would expose the child to criminal behavior, according to Ultius.

After the legalization of abortion, the U.S. saw a dramatic reduction in the number of unwanted births.  But even though the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, it took a few years for the numbers to reach a quantifiable state because there was originally a lack of abortion providers.

So, Donohue and Levitt began looking at data from 1997 to 2014 for their study.

They admitted that the analysis is complicated by the fact that the impact of abortion on crime is can only be measured over a period of decades. Rather, it is only felt when the fetus exposed to abortion in utero would reach “an age at which crimes are committed.”

Examining crime patterns and statistics from the five states that legalized abortion before the Court ruling, (Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, and Washington),  in the period between 1982 and 1997—around when those aborted fetuses would have been of “criminal age”— Donohue and Levitt found a 30.4 percent decrease in crime compared to the increase in crime in the rest of the country.

They tested their theory again by looking at the relationship between crime and the number of abortions in each state, finding that “high-abortion states experience more favorable [decreased] crime trends than medium-abortion states, with low-abortion states faring the worst [in crime trends].”

Lastly, they found that the relationship between abortion rates and arrests from 1985-2014 shows that there’s a slight decrease in arrest rates as abortion rates increase.

“Twenty years from now, the impact of abortion will be roughly twice as great as the impact felt so far,” the authors predicted. “Our results suggest that, all else being equal, legalized abortion will account for persistent declines of 1 percent a year in crime over the next two decades.”

But, that prediction is now subject to doubt, as the anti-abortion movement gains more traction.

The link between crime and unwanted births adds another dimension to fears that toughening restrictions on abortion will have a direct impact on women’s health.

Women’s advocate groups  have warned that a return to the pre-Roe era will lead to a dramatic increase in unsafe “D.I.Y” abortion methods in years to come.

Abortion tends to be safer where it is broadly legal than in more legally restrictive settings, according to the Guttenmacher Institute.

“According to recent estimates, at least 8 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are from unsafe abortion,” the Institute said. “At least 22,800 women die each year from complications of unsafe abortion.”

In 2018, the Institute released a paper which found that, worldwide, there are about 35 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15 to 44).

The complete report, The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime over the Last Two Decades, can be downloaded here.

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

via The Crime Report

June 12, 2019 at 08:20AM

Florida to Initiate Sweeping Consolidation of Justice Data

Under a new law that takes effect July 1, Florida will begin consolidating criminal justice data from multiple agencies, including prisons, law enforcemers, and courts, into a single data base that will make the information easier to access and analyze, reports the Capitol News Service. Lawmakers call it the gold standard in crime reporting. The goal is to get a better understanding of criminal justice trends in the state to help inform policy decisions.

The new system will require law enforcement agencies, court clerks, state attorneys, public defenders, jails and the Department of Corrections to submit statistics to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The data will be available to the public on FDLE’s website. Florida has the third-largest prison population in the country, costing taxpayers $2.3 billion a year. Barney Bishop of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance said that a long view of better data will bring into relief certain trends that may not be apparent now–for example, whether the system is discriminatory. Agencies that fail to comply with the new reporting requirements can be declared ineligible for state funding for up to five years.

Read more…