Populating Aging and Crime: The Peculiar Case of Japan’s Rising Elderly Crime Rate

Naomi Sugie, Princeton University

Over the last three decades, as crime rates in developed countries have increased, Japan’s low crime rate has long puzzled criminologists. Many explanations have been proposed, but cultural factors are most often cited—the view that Japan is composed of a homogenous population with a single language and orientation that promotes effective informal social controls. While Japan continues to be viewed as exceptional for its low crime rate, a peculiar trend has recently emerged that is puzzling to researchers: rising crime rates among the elderly. Over the last ten years, the crime rate among people 65 years and older has nearly tripled, and in 2007, over 12 percent of crimes in Japan were committed by people 65 years and older. This paper utilizes a unique data source—prefectural level crime statistics—to investigate what prefectural-level economic and family structure changes are associated with the recent rise in elderly offending.

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Presented in Poster Session 4