Jeremiah says it’s mayhem in America, but the official statistics say otherwise. So, whom to believe? Well, if you believe the official figures, then crime is down, jobs are up, and inflation is flat. LOL. This is not to impugn the official sources, but they do suffer from scope, scale, timing, and definition problems. Sometimes, the best evidence is what you can see for yourself.
Nobody knew how many … every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while half the population went barefoot.
For example, if you want to know about inflation, look at the tape from your grocery store. Is your paycheck not buying what it used to? That’s inflation.
The official figure, “core” CPI, omits food and gasoline because the prices are too volatile. Apparently, the BLS can’t calculate a moving average, so they omit the very prices that matter to you. They also allow for “substitution,” which says not to worry about the rising price of beef – as long as you can eat pork.
Likewise, the best measure of unemployment is the number of friends and relatives who are out of work. The official figure, also from the BLS, is regularly recast – yes, for political reasons. No one takes the headline figure seriously. You have to look at the U6 measure and the participation rate – or visit John Williams, and praise Allah that someone is still keeping decent records.
This brings us to the crime statistics. Jeremiah is certain that crime is going up in his neighborhood, but what about those national figures? Below is the chart from the BJS Criminal Victimization Survey.
These people do a nice job, especially given the sensitive topic. The survey makes good use of stat sampling and confidence intervals. This chart, though, has a scaling issue. The epic decline from 1993 to 2003 masks changes in the more recent period – to wit, a serious uptick in the last year.
Below is the same data, looking only at the last ten years. The units are victims of violence per thousand, so it accounts for population growth. The uptick from 19.3 to 22.5 may not sound like much, but it’s over 16% and it more than reverses the prior year’s decline.
Since this is the 2011 survey, reported October 2012, the rate could easily be above 25 right now. In case you’re wondering what genius policy reduced crime during the Clinton administration, we still like Steven Levitt’s analysis. He does a nice job of debunking the partisan explanations, and he puts the data into a generational context.
Lest anyone be too glib about the fall in crime since 1990, Levitt goes farther back – showing that we are still above historical norms.