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Alcohol and Crime: Behavioral Aspects - Studies Of Populations

rates consumption drinking analyses

In studies of populations, the unit of analysis is a population rather than an individual or an event. These analyses examine the covariation between alcohol consumption and violence at an aggregate level such as a country or a state. In studies incorporating time series analysis, per capita alcohol consumption is correlated with crime levels over a period of years. Such analyses show, for example, that increases in consumption are related to rises in homicide rates and assault rates in Sweden, assault rates in Norway, rates of violent crime and some property crime in the United Kingdom, and male homicide rates in Australia (Ensor and Godfrey; Lenke; Lester). In the United States, rates of rape, robbery, and assault (but not murder) tend to rise along with per capita consumption and fall with increases in state-level beer taxes (Cook and Moore 1993a; 1993b).

Time series analyses in different countries imply that the association of alcohol consumption and violent behavior tends to be higher in drinking cultures with a more "explosive" drinking pattern in which drinking to intoxication is common (Lenke). These quantitative findings echo the anthropological evidence collected by Craig MacAndrew and Robert Edgerton in their influential treatise Drunken Comportment: A Social Explanation. This evidence demonstrated wide variations in drunken behavior between different cultures and in the same culture at different historical periods, suggesting that the link between drinking and violence is at least as much a matter of cultural expectation and custom as of pharmacology (MacAndrew and Edgerton).

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