Social Change and the Future of Violent Crime. In Ted Robert Gurr (ed.) Violence in
America, Vol. 1. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1989, 235-250.
We have seen that crime is firmly rooted in many fundamental aspects of American life. Some
of those factors have been changing rapidly and some more slowly, but they all have
implications for the future. These implications are easiest to draw out for the most predictable
aspects of life in coming decades, those which involve demography. Almost all of those who
will be filling the high-risk age categories during the first decade of the twenty first century
have already been born: we know their numbers, and who they are. What they will do is less
predictable, but some research suggests they will engage in more and more serious acts of
criminal violence than generations in the immediate past. The influence of poverty, racial and
generational inequality, and family and community disorganization also seem clear, and while
it is less certain that those forces will worsen, there seem to be a few reasons to be
particularly sanguine about their near-term trends. Another factor is the apparently tenacious
criminality of Baby Boomers, who we saw may not drop out of crime as rapidly as anticipated.
Also, as long as race continues to track the distribution of other hardship and family
problems, the relative size of the youthful black population will add significantly to our
expectations concerning future rates of crime. None of these projections take into account the
growth of the Hispanic population. Hispanics experience many of the problems facing
American blacks. On the other hand, we also saw evidence above of worsening economic
conditions and family disorganization among whites as well as blacks and Hispanics. They all
face declining real wages, increasingly below the poverty line, and show evidence of family
disruption. The diffusion of hardship and disorganization throughout the population will
multiply its effects on crime.