Data Study: Population Growth and Crime

Posted by Lance Blick on Nov 24, 2020 12:27:04 PM

Crime as a Factor in Population MigrationWe all know that 2020 has brought about many changes in the way people live—and where they live. With the ability to work from anywhere, many people have begun to rethink their priorities when it comes to deciding on the place they choose to call home…and why.

At SiteSeer, when news and trends start to emerge, we always like to look to the data to dig into the why. This new data study series on market population, migration and the factors that drive where people choose to relocate is starting with something that is top of minds for many people when picking a place to live and/or raise their families: crime.

What we’re studying

As mentioned, this study will be the first in a series that assesses how (if) population is impacted by a wide range of factors. The first factor we’ll look at is crime, but future blogs will evaluate weather, the cost of living, geographic elements, and any suggestions you, our audience, bring to us!

This year, we’ve certainly seen a migration in population that many assume has something to do with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, but it’s likely, of course, that there’s more to it. We wanted to know: what are people looking for when choosing where to live? Does a city’s or town’s crime rate influence their decision to move there?

Crime happens anywhere

Most studies look at crime by city – and often in cities over 100,000. This methodology is misleading for several reasons:

  • People tend to confuse “city” with “metropolitan area.” Baltimore City is statistically the most dangerous place on our list, but the Baltimore metropolitan area doesn’t break the top 25. Clearly there are many safe places to live in the many suburbs of Baltimore, even if the city has a high crime rate.
  • Cities don’t operate in a vacuum. Many of the U.S. cities with the lowest crime are suburbs of or adjacent to some of the highest-crime cities – cities like Woodlands, Texas, (suburb of Houston), Murfreesboro, Tennessee (outside Nashville), and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, (suburb of Tulsa.
  • Once you get above 100,000 in population, there is very little correlation between crime and city size. Although nearly all the cities in the U.S. with populations over 1 million population have above-average crime, only one breaks the top 25 most dangerous cities (Philadelphia at #25). It is much more dangerous to live in Miami Gardens (#1) than the city of Miami (#49), for instance.

Crime by metropolitan and micropolitan area

Looking at crime by metropolitan area (a city with a population of over 50,000) and micropolitan area (city with a population of over 10,000) is a better way to understand crime statistics.

Generally, it is safer to live in smaller markets than larger markets, although many of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are not the most dangerous metropolitan areas.

So, is crime a factor in which markets people are choosing to move to?

Most people would agree that crime rate is a factor in where they choose to live and work. One would presume, then, that there would be a positive relationship between lower crime and in-migration, right?

That does not appear to be the case.

In September 2020, we looked at metropolitan and micropolitan area growth between 2018-2020. When we match up our crime statistics with growth, there is a R2 = 0.13 correlation between crime and population growth. For the non-statisticians, the positive correlation means…

  • Markets with the highest population growth generally have higher crime rates.
  • The top 50 markets for population growth have a crime rate that is 15% higher than the national average.

Take a look at the map

The map above gives a visual explanation of what we’re seeing: that crime happens everywhere AND the markets with population growth also have higher crime, generally.

As stated, people typically choose larger markets over smaller ones and larger markets on average have higher crime rates, but let’s dig a little deeper. Of the top 10 metros over 500,000 population that saw the highest population growth, their crime rate was statistically no lower than other markets of similar size.

We’ll continue to study data related to population in the months to come, and in the meantime, contact our team if we can answer questions. SiteSeer is always here to help companies make more accurate, data-driven decisions about where to locate. Our software is designed to help you make market decisions that are driven by data science, not gut feel.

Contact the SiteSeer team

Source: STI: LandScape 2020 by Synergos Technologies. Crime rates are based on latest FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (2018-2019). Crime indices used in this study are a weighted combination of crime in 5 categories (violent crime – assault/robbery and property crime – burglary, auto theft, larceny/theft). These five categories have been normalized and weighted according our subjective view of severity, i.e. violent crime receiving much greater weight than property crime.


Topics: Retail Data Analysis, Data Study, Population Study, Demographic Data

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all