Interdisciplinary Inquiry

05/14/2012

2012 U.S. Peace Index report released

The United States Peace Index (USPI), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), provides a comprehensive measure of U.S. peacefulness dating back to 1991. It also provides an analysis of the socio-economic measures that are associated with peace as well as estimates of the costs of violence and the economic benefits that would flow from increases in peace. This is the second edition of the U.S. Peace Index.

This year a Metropolitan Peace Index has also been produced which measures the peacefulness of 61 metropolitan statistical areas within the U.S. The USPI is based on the work of the Global Peace Index, the preeminent global measure of peacefulness, which has been produced by IEP every year since 2007.

The last twenty years have seen a substantial and sustained reduction in direct violence in the U.S. The homicide rate has halved since 1991, with a concurrent reduction in the violent crime rate from 748 to 399 violent crimes per 100,000 over this period. Although this trend seemed to be levelling off at the turn of the century, the last three years have seen successive improvements in peace.

The 2012 USPI results have also been correlated against a large secondary dataset of economic, educational, health, demographic, and social capital factors, in order to determine the environments which are most closely associated with peace in the U.S.

Although there was a strong relationship between the drop in crime and the increase in the incarceration rate in the 90s, this relationship is no longer evident with 27 states decreasing their incarceration rates while simultaneously experiencing reductions in their violent crime rates. Between 2000 and 2010, New York experienced a fall in violent crime and incarceration every year, as well as falls in its homicide rate.

Given the above findings, and the fact that 2.38% of the entire population (over 7.2 million people) is under some form of correctional supervision, as well as the extent of the economic resources that are devoted to incarceration, it is important to review the methods that have been used to maintain law and order. New approaches to dealing with non-violent offenders, combined with investments in proven recidivism programs that are cost effective hold promise in improving both the trend of crime reduction and also decreasing the rate of incarceration.

The economic cost of violence to the U.S. economy is substantial and can be categorized in three ways. The first is the expenditure borne by state governments to maintain law and order through the police, justice and the prison system or to deal with the direct consequences of violence. Secondly, the direct lost productivity from crime which can consist of time off work from injuries or lost earning capacity from early death. The third category is the lost productivity and job creation that comes from other, more productive investments than violence containment. The displacement of expenditure away from violence containment to support industry investment, schools or national infrastructure can improve the nation’s productivity and competitiveness.

Peace is linked to economic opportunity, health, education, and social capital. The 2011 USPI found a strong correlation between peace and a number of secondary factors, which has been reinforced by the 2012 USPI. More peaceful states tend to have more economic opportunities, better provision of basic services and higher levels of educational attainment. In addition, the 2012 USPI has found there is a strong correlation between social capital and peace. More peaceful states tend to have more social capital which represents a better sense of community, and higher rates of volunteerism.

The full report can be found at:

http://www.visionofhumanity.org/unitedstatespeaceindex/2012/

Posted at 08:59 AM

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