The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,
by Matt Taibbi
Over the course of the last twenty years or so, America has been falling deeper and deeper into a bizarre statistical mystery. Take in the following three pieces of information, and see if you can make them fit together.
First, violent crime has been dropping precipitously for nearly two decades. At its peak in 1991, according to FBI data, there were 758 violent crimes per 100,000 people. By 2010 that number had plunged to 425 crimes per 100,000, a drop of more than 44 percent.
Second: although poverty rates largely declined during the 1990s, offering at least one possible explanation for the drop in violent crime, poverty rates rose sharply during the 2000s. At the start of that decade, poverty levels hovered just above 10 percent. By 2008 they were up to 13.2 percent. By 2009 the number was 14.3 percent. By 2010, 15.3 percent.
The third piece of information that makes no sense is that during this same period of time, the prison population in America has exploded. In 1991 there were about one million Americans behind bars. By 2012 the number was over 2.2 million, a more than 100 percent increase.