So via USA Today, I was interested to see a new website called the Common Good Forecaster (from the United Way and the American Human Development Project) which makes concrete that connection, estimating improvements in various social indicators thanks to more people getting an education.
Noting that more than one in 5 Texans age 25 and over didn't graduate high school, the site focuses on murder rates as its key crime indicator; Texas' rate is 6.6 per 100,000, compared to 5.9 nationally. By their data, if Texas were to increase the number of people who graduate college from 25-32%, it would reduce Texas' murder rate to the national average (and boost median personal earnings by 5%).
But murder may not be the only area where improved education might reduce crime. Another USA Today piece from yesterday says much of the nation finds itself in the grip of increased graffiti crime, though some cities like New York and Dallas are bucking the trend. Texas and other states have responded largely by increasing penalties for graffiti, but I've argued before that erasing a deficit in fine arts education might be a better approach:
While these bills flail with a hammer at the problem (at this point punching holes in the wall instead of pounding a nail), we see a telling item over at the Houston Chronicle's Texas Politics blog which informs us that "Music, fine arts are seeking more respect" at the Legislature, noting that Texas schools have seen the arts de-prioritized to focus on the TAKS test. As a result, Texas experienced "a drop in middle school fine arts participation from 75 percent student participation in 1999 to 66 percent in 2006."In that light, I was pleased to see Sen. Florence Shapiro amend her big public schools bill, HB 3, to require fine arts and physical education credits in the state's minimum graduation requirements. To my mind, boosting fine arts in schools may do more to reduce graffiti by youth than any other public policy we could undertake because it provides an artistic alternative. I don't believe the fact that Texas youth are doing less art in school and more in the streets is a coincidence.
Perhaps relatedly, during this same period in Texas graffiti crimes soared; the amount of graffiti in Austin, for example, increased 400% from 2002 to 2007. So kids are doing less art in school and more out in the streets. But all legislators can think to do is increase punishments, not artistic opportunities.
Sen. Shapiro, though, didn't mention graffiti but said what convinced her to add the amendment (which she'd rejected when it was offered previously by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte) was a new study from the Texas Cultural Trust released May 1st about the impact of the creative sector on the economy. Said the press release:
An economic study released today shows that the creative sector of the Texas economy is growing faster and paying higher wages than jobs in the non-creative sector. According to the data, creative sector industries such as digital media, film, music, performing arts, visual arts and arts-related tourism have become a cornerstone of the state’s economy and are on a trajectory for continued growth. ...
The data demonstrates a clear link between the cultural arts, a vibrant creative sector and a strong economy. But the study’s findings also imply that the bright spot in Texas won’t last forever if the state stops investing in arts education and the cultural arts.
According to the report, said Shapiro, by 2016 one in 12 Texas jobs will be in the creative sector.
I suspect that promoting arts in school will have at least as great an effect on graffiti - if not more so - than has boosting criminal penalties, which seems to have been an ineffective approach.