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The association between birth cohort size and fluctuating crime levels: a Western Australian case study

29 February 2012

This paper uses a case study of the Western Australian population to illustrate the extent to which Australia's largest birth cohort have engaged in higher levels of criminal activity compared with smaller birth cohorts.

Official Australian crime statistics indicate that individual offence levels peak around 15–24 years of age and decline thereafter. Change in this general age–crime trend could be expected to coincide with change in age-related demographic phenomena. This paper is one of two by this author that investigate the impact of structural ageing on crime patterns. A case study of the South Australian population confirmed that total crime levels declined in that state when the proportion of young people in the population declined.

In this paper, another aspect of the association between crime and demography is considered—age-specific offence rates and birth cohorts. Australia has experienced waves of differently sized birth cohorts, yet the impact of these waves on long-term crime trends is frequently overlooked. This paper uses a case study of the Western Australian population to illustrate the extent to which Australia’s largest (‘baby bust’) cohort have engaged in higher levels of criminal activity compared with smaller birth cohorts.