Making sense of recent U.S. crime trends, 1980 to 1996/1998: Age composition effects and other explanations

Darrell Steffensmeier, Miles D. Harer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

48 Scopus citations


The authors apply age standardization methods to the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to assess the effects of age composition changes on long-term (1980 to 1996) and short- term trends (1992 to 1996) in index crimes. Key findings include large age composition effects on crime rates during the 1980s but diminishing effects by the mid-1990s; UCR and NCVS disagree somewhat about long-term trends but agree about short-term trends: UCR shows age-adjusted crime rates rising in the 1980s, with index crime at about the same level today as it was in 1980, whereas the NCVS shows steadily declining rates throughout the 1980 to 1996/1998 period. Both sources show across-the-board declines in crime rates during the Clinton years. The authors interpret the crime trends as due to varied changes in reporting programs as well as basic changes in society and extend the rate adjustment procedures to forecast crime trends into the next century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-274
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 6 1999


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

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