## Data Mining Exercises

### Exploring Criminal Activity, Unemployment, and Prisons

Your textbook presents statistics about various crimes. In this project, you will use Statistical Abstract of the U.S. to look for different types of crime statistics. The Statistical Abstract contains a collection of statistics on social and economic conditions in the United States. We will use this source to gather information on criminal activity, levels of unemployment, and rates of incarceration in order to better understand patterns of crime in American society.

To obtain the information for this exercise, follow these steps:

• 1. Start at the Web page for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the U.S. (you can also find this book in the reference section of your library).
• 2. On the Web page for the Statistical Abstract you should see a list of sections on the left side. First select the link, “Law Enforcement, Courts, and Prisons,” and then the sub-menu link, “Crimes and Crime Rates.” Click on that link to open the page with tables that provide all the data you will need to get started.

#### Part I

In the first part of this data exercise you will be using data on crime rates by state. To begin, scroll down the list of tables until you find the one labeled, “Crime Rates by State, 2006 and 2007, and by Type, 2007,” and click on that table (Table No. 297).

Notice that the table distinguishes between violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) and property crimes (burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft). Find the five states with the highest and lowest rates for each of these broad categories (violent versus property) and record your findings in Table 1. (Note: Do not include the District of Columbia.) Did the same states show up in both categories of crime? Then look up your own state and record those rates too.

 Table 1. Rates of Crime for Selected States (2007) Violent crime rate Property crime rate Five highest states Five highest states 1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 3. 4. 4. 5. 5. Five lowest states Five lowest states 1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 3. 4. 4. 5. 5. Your state
##### Writing Assignment 1

Were you surprised by what you found? Using your sociological imagination, explain the findings of your investigation. What social factors might contribute to the patterns of high and low rates of crimes?

#### Part II

The statistics show a decline in crime rates in recent years. According to the Statistical Abstract, between 1990 and 2007 (the most recent year for which information is available), the violent crime rate declined from 730 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 467 in 2007, and the property crime rate dropped from 5,073 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 3,264 in 2007. In this portion of the data exercise, you will explore one possible explanation for this decline by applying strain theory. Strain theory would suggest that the declining crime rate is related to better economic conditions of society. If the economy is doing well and the unemployment rate is low, then there is less pressure on people to commit crime.

To test this hypothesis, we need to look at both the crime rates and the unemployment rate for the period from 1990 to the present. To obtain the annual crime rates for violent crimes and property crimes, scroll through the list of tables again, only this time you want to look for “Crimes and Crime Rates by Type of Offense” (Table 295). Record information for the violent crime rate and the property crime rate in Table 2.

Once you have completed this, return to the Statistical Abstract Web page and look again at the list of sections along the left-hand side of the page. This time select “Labor Force, Employment and Earnings,” and when the sub-menus open, click on “Labor Force Status.” Scroll down until you see “Civilian Population—Employment Status,” and click on that (Table 574). Record the information on the unemployment rate in Table 2 as well.

 Table 2. Crime Rates and Unemployment Rates for the United States, 1990–present Year Crime rate, per 100,000 population Unemployment rate (% of labor force) Violent Property 1990 1991* — — 1992* — — 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008* — —

* Crime rate data is not available for these years.

##### Writing Assignment 2

What is the trend of the unemployment rate (in percent) since 1990? Can you see a relationship between the unemployment rate and criminal activity?

#### Part III

In their discussion of strategies for reducing crime, the authors of your textbook pose the question, “Are prisons the answer?” This last part of the data exercise provides you with an opportunity to consider how to answer this question. As noted in your textbook, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Does the strategy of locking people away result in less crime? If this were true, we should expect to find that states with the highest rates of incarceration would have the lowest rates of crime, while those with the lowest rates of incarceration would have the highest rates of crime.

In order to test this, let’s look at rates of incarceration across the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice, the national incarceration rate, as of June 30, 2008, was 762 persons in custody per 100,000 population (“Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008—Statistical Tables,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin). Table 3 provides information on the highest and lowest rates of incarcerations for different state jurisdictions as of June 30, 2008.

 Table 3. States with the Highest and Lowest Incarceration Rates of Prisoners under Jurisdiction of State and Federal Correctional Authorities, June 30, 2008 States with highest incarceration rates States with lowest incarceration rates State Incarceration rate State Incarceration rate 1. Louisiana 858 1. Maine 133 2. Mississippi 749 2. Minnesota 191 3. Oklahoma 668 3. New Hampshire 213 4. Texas 668 4. North Dakota 226 5. Alabama 619 5. Utah 232

Compare the states listed in this table to those you listed in Table 1 to see whether there is a relationship between rates of incarceration and crime.

##### Writing Assignment 3

What is the relationship between incarceration and crime? The authors of your textbook suggest that incarceration is not very effective in deterring crime. What do you think, based on the information you have uncovered?

#### Part IV

As you read in Chapter 6, Émile Durkheim, one of the earliest sociologists, believed that deviance plays an important role in a well-ordered society. Durkheim believed deviance helps us understand the normative limits of our behavior and the standards we share as members of a society. It is not the presence of deviance that is problematic, but the amount of deviance.

##### Writing Assignment 4/Essay

In this series of exercises you examined two factors related to criminal behavior: unemployment and imprisonment. In this society we tend to look at the former as a contributing factor to crime and the latter as a deterrent. But we can also argue that having ample opportunities to find employment is also a deterrent. Write an essay that considers which strategy—employment or imprisonment—is more effective in reducing criminal behavior.