Economics and Crime

The old saying is that “crime doesn’t pay.” However, crime flourishes where people don’t ben_franklinget paid.

Published earlier this year, the list of fifteen cities with the most rapid growth in violent crime is instructive on several points:

  • They’re medium size or smaller cities
  • They have poverty and lower economic growth
  • They’re primarily in the South and Midwest
    • Alabama (Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville)
    • California (El Centro, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande)
    • Iowa (Waterloo-Cedar Falls)
    • Louisiana (Alexandria, Houma-Thibodaux, Monroe)
    • Missouri (St. Josephs, Springfield)
    • Montana (Missoula)
    • Ohio (Mansfield)
    • South Dakota (Sioux Falls)
    • Texas (Abilene, Odessa)
    • Wisconsin (Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis)

Monroe is the worst city on the list; violent crime has increased there by more than 80% in the last five years.

Note that the Census combines smaller communities for reporting purposes.

Milwaukee is the largest city on the list, but it also ranked No. 2 on the list of poorest large American cities in 2015. (2) Milwaukee ranked 44th on a list compiled by Wallethub for quality of education; the other cities listed here fell outside the top 150).

The argument — imperfect, of course — is that people who have goals and hope don’t commit violence. Those who think they “can’t lose” due to social status or have nothing to lose, do. Education and job prospects matter.


  1. Michael Sauter and Samuel Stebbins, “Cities Where Crime Is Soaring,” 24/7 Wall St., 9 February 2017.
  2. Bruce Kennedy, “America’s 11 Poorest Cities,” Moneywatch, 18 February 2015.
  3. Richie Bernardo, “2016’s Most and Least Educated Cities,” WalletHub, 25 July 2016.

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