Structural ageing and Australian Crime trends: An exploration of the Easterlin hypothesis and the nature of the age-crime pattern
Rosevear, LA (2010) Structural ageing and Australian Crime trends: An exploration of the Easterlin hypothesis and the nature of the age-crime pattern. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.
This thesis explores Richard Easterlin’s theories regarding the association between
structural ageing and crime, and its relation to the age-crime pattern, in a three-tiered
analysis of Western Australian and South Australian apprehension trends.
Easterlin (1987a) proposes two expressions of an age structure-crime pattern: cohort
density and age composition. The cohort density expression suggests that, in
comparison to smaller birth cohorts, large birth cohorts will engage in higher levels
of criminal activity because they experience higher levels of internal competition,
and thus, relative disadvantage. The age composition expression suggests a
concomitant decline in young persons’ share of the population age structure and
crime because, in comparison to older persons, young persons make a more sizeable
contribution to a population’s crime levels.
These arguments have not previously been investigated for Australia. Such analysis
is appropriate, as official Australian crime statistics reflect the age-crime pattern (i.e.
that individual offence levels peak around age 15-24 years and decline thereafter),
and the population is ageing structurally.
Initially, the state of the age-crime pattern is assessed through distribution and
correlation analysis. The findings indicate that the Australian age-crime pattern is
diminishing; a decline in young persons’ share of all apprehensions, and an upward
shift in the age distribution of offenders, is unfolding more or less simultaneously
with change in population share.
Cohort-specific departures from the age-crime pattern (i.e. whether or not the cohort
has experienced declining apprehensions levels as it has aged, thus extending its
participation in crime beyond the young crime-prone ages) are then identified by
organising age-specific apprehension rates by birth cohort over time. Cohort analysis
reveals that high cohort density is a potential source of variance in the age-crime
pattern, and that departures from the age-crime pattern have been more sizeable (and frequent) for the younger, larger ‘baby bust’ cohorts (the residential Australian
population born 1968-74).
Finally, apprehension rates are standardised (and decomposed) for change in age
structure, population size, and apprehension rates. These analyses show that
structural ageing is constraining apprehension levels; its influence is generally
greater than that of population growth, but lower than underlying change in
apprehension levels which typically have the largest effect.
Overall, therefore, the thesis finds Easterlin’s propositions to be supported, with
Australian crime trends having been influenced by both cohort density and age
composition effects. However, there are some differences across gender, offence
categories, and period, suggesting that, like the underlying age-crime pattern, the
association between structural ageing and crime is not rigidly invariant.
|Item Type:||Thesis (PhD)|
|Additional Information:||Copyright the Author
|Keywords:||sociology, criminology, demography, structural aging, quantitative methods, age-crime trends|
|Deposited By:||UTAS ePrints Officer [HE]|
|Deposited On:||28 Apr 2011 15:07|
|Last Modified:||12 Sep 2012 12:34|
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