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Cohort Size and Arrest Rates Over the Life Course: The Easterlin Hypothesis Reconsidered

Darrell Steffensmeier, Cathy Streifel and Edward S. Shihadeh
American Sociological Review
Vol. 57, No. 3 (Jun., 1992), pp. 306-314
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096237
Page Count: 9
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Cohort Size and Arrest Rates Over the Life Course: The Easterlin Hypothesis Reconsidered
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Abstract

Easterlin's cohort-size hypothesis suggests that crime rates fluctuate according to the relative size of the birth cohort. We examine the hypothesis using arrest statistics from the Uniform Crime Reports for the years 1953 through 1989. This paper extends an earlier ASR article (Steffensmeier et al. 1987) and tests three hypotheses derived from the Easterlin framework: (1) whether cohort size is positively related to age-period-specific crime rates, net of age and period effects; (2) whether the effect of cohort size is stronger for property crimes than for violent crimes; and (3) whether the effect of cohort size is stronger for young adults than for older adults or is consistently additive across the life course. Results using two different procedures to assess the cohort-size effect generally contradict the hypotheses, leading us to question the usefulness of cohort size as an explanation of periodicity in crime rates and possibly in other social phenomena as well.

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