The international homicide rate has dropped 20 percent since 1990 and a new study concludes it’s likely not due to changes in domestic policies or current events.
Researchers from the University of South Florida (USF) and other institutions studied data from 1990 to 2015 on 126 countries that made up 90 percent of the world’s population. In most of these nations, people ages 15-29 are responsible for a large proportion of homicides. However, this age group is shrinking, now making up 21 percent of the global population. Their study published in PLOS ONE finds that this decline in the size of the youth population – a global demographic trend – strongly correlates with international homicide trends.
Following the end of World War II, much of the world experienced a baby boom, prompting the young adult population to spike in the 1960s and 70s with the homicide rate running parallel. During this same timeframe, improvements were made to hygiene practices and healthcare, prompting a drop in the mortality rate. The World Health Organization reports the average global life expectancy went from 43 to 72 in 2016 when the latest set of data became available. In addition to people living longer, more adults are having fewer children or are avoiding parenthood all together. This is resulting in a disproportionate number of older individuals relative to the young, and fewer homicides around the world.
The steepest declines occurred in regions with the less crime. Between 1990 and 2015, North America and Western Europe experienced a 40 percent reduction in homicides, Asia had a 37.5 percent decline, and there was a 20 percent decline in Eastern Europe and Oceania. In the United States, the homicide rate dropped 43 percent between 1991 and 2000. It went from 10 out of every 100,000 people being killed by homicide to nearly six per 100,000. Previous research has argued for a number of contributing factors such as rising incarceration rates, the legalization of abortion and improvements to the economy. While this points to events or policies specific to the U.S., similar drops occurred in other countries without these influences, like Canada.