Social Mobility and Crime Rates, 1970 - 2010: Applying the Cycles of Deviance Model to Violent and Economic Crime

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Virginia Tech

In his article, "Cycles of Deviance" (1996), Hawdon demonstrates how varying rates of social mobility correspond to cyclical patterns of drug use in the United States between 1880 and 1990. He proposes that social mobility alters the "deviance structure" of a society by changing the rate at which certain behaviors are labeled deviant, and thus, the rate at which people engage in those behaviors. This study provides an updated assessment of the cycles of deviance model to determine whether it can account for rates of violent and economic crime. I use social mobility to predict homicide, burglary, and overall rates of drug use from 1970 through 2010 using a time-series analysis. Crime data are obtained from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and Monitoring the Future. Social mobility data are obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau. I also control for several well- established correlates of crime -- namely, economic and demographic factors, police size, illicit drug market activity, and firearm availability. Results show moderate support for the cycles of deviance model in predicting rates of homicide and burglary. However, social mobility's influence with respect to drug use appears to vary with the size of the youth population.

cycles of deviance, social mobility, violent crime, economic crime, time-series analysis