Parents today in the US worry too much about letting their kids play outside without supervision.  Are they paranoid?

The crime rate today is equal to what it was back in 1970. In the ’70s and ’80s, crime was climbing. It peaked around 1993, and since then it’s been going down.

If you were a child in the ’70s or the ’80s and were allowed to go visit your friend down the block, or ride your bike to the library, or play in the park without your parents accompanying you, your children are no less safe than you were.

But it feels so completely different, and we’re told that it’s completely different, and frankly, when I tell people that it’s the same, nobody believes me. We’re living in really safe times, and it’s hard to believe.

This ignores two crucial details.  First, if fewer kids are being left unsupervised then there are fewer crimes to commit so if the number of crimes committed is the same as in the 1970’s then in fact we are living in a more dangerous world.  Second, even holding constant the crime rate there is a coordination problem that parents must contend with.  If all of your neighbors kids are inside playing their Wii and you let your kid go to the playground then he is the only target so you would be right to pass and go out and get your own Wii.  In the 1970’s there were enough of us targets out there already that the marginal kid was safe.

The article is here.  Cap clap: kottke.org.