personal choices and crime

In January, Ralph Keeney’s paper called “Personal Decisions are the Leading Cause of Death” made quite a splash. As the title suggests, the article tackled the issue of how our choices affect our health. The paper asserts that “over one million of the 2.4 million deaths in 2000 can be attributed to personal decisions and could have been avoided if readily available alternative choices were made.”

In the same vein, a Marginal Revolution post summarized violent crime statistics. It seems that our personal choices affect our likelihood of being a victim of violent crime. MR reports the rate of victimization for violent crimes (per 1,000 persons aged 12 and over), summarized below. Married men and women have drastically lower rates of victimization than their unmarried counterparts. Interestingly, divorced men and women have drastically higher rates of victimization than their married counterparts. Even more interesting is that these trends appear to be much stronger for women than men. I’m not sure what to make of all of this. The general trends are not so surprising to me, the the strength of these trends (particularly for the divorced) is troubling. Now I know that correlation doesn’t imply causation, but these overwhelming statistics seem to suggest personal choices play a role.

The statistics:

Never Married Males: 45.0
Married Males: 12.3
Divorced or Separated Males: 44.2

Never Married Females: 38.4
Married Females: 10.3
Divorced or Separated Females: 49.4

What do you make of this?


3 responses to “personal choices and crime

  • Paul Rubin

    Personal choices may well play a role, but it’s also possible that at unmarried people are more likely to be alone (and therefore more vulnerable) than married people. I’m not sure I would consider traveling alone, or being alone at home, as a “personal choice” (unless you want to consider the state of being unmarried as a personal choice in and of itself).

    I am curious about the magnitude of the risk difference between never-married and divorced/separated females, though. Assuming the difference is statistically significant, that would suggest some sort of behavior change after having been married.

  • Laura

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t mean to imply that the disparity is entirely due to choice or that the “choice” is that simple. Certainly, our lifestyle choices are a complex mix of conscious choices and our life experiences.

  • Aurelie

    I wonder if the high rates for divorced or separated people are due to acrimonious separations, or the loss of a social network and identity and then meeting “the wrong crowd”. People can be naive when they go back on the dating scene after many years of monogamy and might easily be taken advantage of.

    My guess (and it’s just a guess) is that single and divorced people have a more fluid circle of acquaintances than married people and will have the kind of activities that bring them more in contact with new people, and some of these new people will be “shady”. Married people might be more likely to stick to their core circle of friends.

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