Friday, July 19, 2013

Crime Stats and Google

An economist has been mining Google search data to learn more about crime, particularly for crimes that are underreported. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, How Googling Unmasks Child Abuse, N.Y. Times, July 13, 2013.

Stephens-Davidowitz writes that another expert said that child abuse and neglect declined during the recession. Great news, right? But Stephens-Davidowitz found that certain Google searches went up, correlating with areas of high unemployment and decreased social services.

After declining for many years in the United States, the searches that seem to have come from abuse victims themselves rose as soon as the Great Recession began. On weeks that unemployment claims rose, these searches rose as well.
He also found higher rates of child mortality due to abuse—deaths due to abuse are less likely to be unreported than abuse itself.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's scholarly paper on this study is Unreported Victims of an Economic Downturn, July 12, 2013.

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