*American Homicide* ($40, even though the release date is listed as 10/15)

This book has many good and quotable bits, for instance:

Anglos continued to kill Hispanics at a fairly high rate in the 1880s and 1890s.  Hispanics were five times more likely than the Chinese to be killed in interracial homicides.  They held a wider range of jobs than the Chinese did, moved more freely in society, and enjoyed full civil rights if they were citizens, so they came into contact with Anglos more often and posed a greater threat to them.  They also responded in kind to Anglo aggression, killing Anglos at eight times the rate the Chinese did.  But the Hispanic community, unlike the Chinese community, was becoming less homicidal.

That is from Randolph Roth's new and notable American Homicide (no subtitle, yay!).  Here is a PW summary:

[Roth] distills his argument into several key statistics, all of which hinge upon the fact that Americans are murdered more frequently than citizens in any other first world democracy: U.S. homicide rates are between six and nine per 100,000 people. Roth refutes popular theories about why this is so (e.g., poverty, drugs) and lays out an alternate hypothesis: "increases in homicide rates" correlate with changes in people's feelings about government and society, such as whether they trust government and its officials and their sense of kinship with fellow citizens.

The demons think this is an important book and the genetic influences on my behavior do not appear to contradict that assessment.  I found this bit interesting:

…although the FBI data are incomplete, there appears to have been a steady decline in spousal homicide in recent decades, from roughly 1.5 per 100,000 adults per year to 0.5 per 100,000.

This book is a treasure trove of historical nuggets, data, and clear writing.  It's the single best source on early murder rates in the American republic.  It's especially interesting on how the South evolved to be the most murderous region of the United States.  "There's just a whole lot of people there who need killin'," I recall one man (in another book) opining about Texas and its high murder rate.

Comments

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/oct/05/us-homicide-rates

Texas is pretty high on that list at number 16, but not /that/ high considering it has several very large cities.

Hrm, 7 of the top 10 states were in the south.

'"increases in homicide rates" correlate with changes in people's feelings about government and society, such as whether they trust government and its officials and their sense of kinship with fellow citizens.'

Ok, if his theory is correct, we should see an increase in murder over this next year in heavily republican states and a decrease in heavily democrat states, and we should have seen the reverse during the bush years.
Maybe, when I am bored over the next few days i'll look at that for two states. I'll pick utah (for the extremely red state) and massachusetts (for the extremely blue state.) I know you can't make good stats for just 2 states, but it should be interesting to look at.

I think I recall a study linking increasing availability and frequency of divorce to a decline in women murdering their husbands. The study I remember didn't look at husbands murdering wives, so I don't know if that pattern was the same or not, but a 2/3 decline in overall spousal murders seems to suggest that there must have been a sharp drop in murders of wives in recent times as well. What did this book offer as a theory for the decline in spousal murders?

'"increases in homicide rates" correlate with changes in people's feelings about government and society, such as whether they trust government and its officials and their sense of kinship with fellow citizens.'

So maybe telling young black kids that the police are the enemy, and that the inherently racist system is keeping them down is not the way to go? If only I could figure out which political faction benefited from this obviously destructive piece of indoctrination.

I find it interesting that essentially all the econometric studies that find increased executions reduces the murder rate depend on data from Texas. If you include data from the other states these studies reach the opposite conclusion.

Whose job is it to comment that Texas is a long way from Canada?

Exactly. Cultural influences play absolutely no role in conditioning perception and response, as this book demonstrates.

Hmm. There seems to be a large gray animal with a very long nose here. Has anyone else noticed?

Can there be a sensible discussion of American homicide rates that ignores the easy availability of firearms?

Thank you right wing-nut.

It is often forgotten how much of an effect immigration does have on crime levels, inequality, education, longevity, etc.

Immigrants are by definition poorer, face high barriers of entry (cultural, language), undereducated, and desperate. Yes, some don't fit this mold, but most well to do people don't leave their home country.

Europe is seeing this with its North African immigrants and (lo and behold) is facing rising xenophobia, inequality, the development of ghettos and urban crime hotspots, etc. All problems the US has been long criticized for by nose in the air Europeans.

It is difficult and rewarding to integrate immigrants.

I wonder if there are correlations between inequality and crime with periods of high immigration in the US. Does anyone know of any empirical studies? I'd also like to see a time delay correlation between immigration and GDP (i.e. after x years of an immigration boom, GDP booms).

"Yes, Guy, obviously if the problem is how the black kids perceive the cops, that's entirely a matter of how they're told to perceive them and has nothing to do with their own observations of the behavior of the cops."

Just out of curiosity, what do you think happened in the 1960s and 70s? The cops became racist?

Right-wing nut,

Pretty defensive, aren't you? All I said was that you had to say something about firearms.

Correlation may not imply causation, but it doesn't disprove it either, as you seem to think. Where it exists, especially when there is such an obvious possible connection, it certainly deserves to be explored. Of course you have your own theory ready at hand, but I wonder how much evidence it's based on. I'm not claiming that guns are the only reason our rates are so high, but to dismiss them as a factor at all is pretty far-fetched.

John Thacker,

It's interesting to talk about violence in general, but the book is about homicide specifically. Firearms make it easy to turn violent encounters into homicides. Since you talk about the the herding tradition of the Scots, you might note that homicide rates in Scotland are less than a third of what they are in the US.

Aaron,

I certainly think there was a movement that involved encouraging anti-establishment thinking, radical chic and all that.

It's interesting to talk about violence in general, but the book is about homicide specifically. Firearms make it easy to turn violent encounters into homicides.

The book I cited discusses homicide specifically.

Since you talk about the the herding tradition of the Scots, you might note that homicide rates in Scotland are less than a third of what they are in the US.

And you might note that the homicide rate in Scotland is double to triple that of England and Wales.

Also notice, Bernard Yomtov, that that ranking specifically excludes the Dunblane massacre.

Occam's Razor on why Americans have higher murder rates than Brits:

1. Guns
2. Blacks

The white working class in Britain appears to be somewhat more criminally inclined than their distant cousins in America, as measured in burglary and assault statistics. But they don't have many guns, so their victims go to the hospital, not the morgue.

According to the Obama Administration's Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks have been a majority of all homicide offenders since the federal government began tracking by race in 1976.

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/race.htm

Keep in mind that the feds don't break out Hispanics as a separate group for the purposes of crime rates, lumping them in with whites, so the black-non-Hispanic white gap is even greater than what the Bureau says about homicides:

"In 2005, offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher than the rates for whites"

America's leading expert on crime, political scientist James Q. Wilson, author of "Thinking About Crime." Wilson contributed a chapter to "Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America," a 2002 book edited by the Thernstroms. In it, he wrote:

"Black men commit murders at a rate about eight times greater than that for white men. This disparity is not new; it has existed for well over a century. When historian Roger Lane studied murder rates in Philadelphia, he found that since 1839 the black rate has been much higher than the white rate. This gap existed long before the invention of television, the wide distribution of hand guns, or access to dangerous drugs (except for alcohol).

"America is a violent nation. The estimated homicide rate in this country, excluding all those committed by blacks, is over three times higher than the homicide rate for the other six major industrial nations. But whatever causes white Americans to kill other people, it causes black Americans to kill others at a much higher rate.

"Of course the average African American male is not likely to kill anybody. During the 1980s and early 1990s, fewer than one out of every 2,000 black men would kill a person in any year, and most of their victims were other blacks. Though for young black men homicide is the leading cause of death, the chances of the average white person’s being killed by a black are very small. But the chances of being hit by lightning are also very small, and yet we leave high ground during a thunderstorm. However low the absolute risk, the relative risk—relative, that is, to the chances of being killed by a white—is high, and this fact changes everything.

"When whites walk down the street, they are more nervous when they encounter a black man than when they encounter a white one. When blacks walk down the street, they are more likely than whites to be stopped and questioned by a police officer...

"The differences in the racial rates for property crimes, though smaller than those for violent offenses, are still substantial. The estimated rate at which black men commit burglary is three times higher than it is for white men; for rape, it is five times higher."

John Thacker,

More recent figures show a much smaller discrepancy between Scotland and England/Wales. Dunblane was in 1996. Why should that be added into the numbers for other years? Even if it were, the seventeen victims would raise the rate in Scotland by just about .3/100,000, not enough to make a big difference in the comparisons.

Even the article you link shows that Scottish rates are about 1/3 those of the US.

A further thought is that you cite herding societies as inherently more violent than agricultural ones. Yet, outside of Texas, the South was not much of a herding society. Alabama did, and does, I think, produce some amount of cattle, but by and large I don't think you can describe the South as having a herding tradition.

Even the article you link shows that Scottish rates are about 1/3 those of the US

So? I said there are other factors, and it makes sense to compare neighboring and similar societies. I can point to countries with a higher murder rate than the US, but the best evidence that the US has been particularly violent is that its homicide rate has always been much higher than its neighboring Canada. One would also expect a higher homicide rate in the US because of its frontier nature for much of its history, which is why comparing with Canada is useful.

A further thought is that you cite herding societies as inherently more violent than agricultural ones. Yet, outside of Texas, the South was not much of a herding society. Alabama did, and does, I think, produce some amount of cattle, but by and large I don't think you can describe the South as having a herding tradition.

However, the American South had a much stronger Scotch-Irish settlement tradition. There is a wealth of additional information in the book I cited; I can't repeat the entire book. I did not claim that herding was the sole factor involved, merely that a long tradition of herding can shape societies and cultural folkways. The patterns in a society can persist in some manner long after the circumstances that selected for them vanish.

Bernard, I can't understand why you take my mentioning of one of many factors discussed in the book to be a claim that it is the sole factor. I certainly never meant that, and I apologize if you misunderstood me, but I'm quite perplexed as to why you would take it that way.

“It is my understanding - as a European - that our murder rates have been on a downward trajectory since the seventies.†

The murder rate in Sweden is higher per capita now than in 1970. The murder rate is far higher than 1950, before the expansion of the welfare state.

In 2005 estimate about 50% of murders in Sweden were committed by first or second generation immigrants.

http://www.bra.se/extra/measurepoint/?module_instance=4&name=1brottslsveutland.pdf&url=/dynamaster/file_archive/051214/e7dae113eb493479665ffe649e0edf57/1brottslsveutland.pdf

Murders have increased slower than other crimes, which have doubled or more since 1970. I would guess one reason is improvements in medical care which save many would-be murders.

John,

Thanks for the link to more recent data. Even with the big jump in 2006 Scotland's rate was only 1.5 times that of England and Wales. That's a big difference, surely, but not "2 or 3 times," though that may have been the case in earlier years.

I did not intend to suggest that you thought the factor you mentioned was the only important one, though rereading I can see how you got that impression. Sorry for the lack of clarity. I do react negatively, as I did to the post, to explanations of our homicide problems that ignore firearms. That's not to say you do that.

I can see that the UK ratio is suggestive of cultural differences among regions being a factor, though here too there may be other things going on. What it does not help with is understanding the much higher overall rate in the US.

The theory that African Americans learned to be violent from the Scots-Irish (as propounded in "Black Rednecks" by Thomas Sowell) doesn't make much sense because Scots-Irish and blacks tended to live apart. The Scots-Irish preferred highland regions of Appalachia and the Ozarks with cooler, healthier climates, while black slaves were imported to work in the feverish lowlands where their stronger immunities to tropical and subtropical diseases would be of benefit.

In "Roughing It," Mark Twain's account of life
in mining and other communities, it is assumed by
many that manhood comes with having killed another.
One aspect of the American paradox is wide
reverence for the Commandments, one of which is
"Thou shalt not kill," and a comparatively higher
homicide rate.Sometimes you find both in the same
person.

black slaves were imported to work in the feverish lowlands where their stronger immunities to tropical and subtropical diseases would be of benefit.

Huh? I think it was rather that large-scale plantations of the type that could use slave labor were more suited to the lowlands.

"... such as whether they trust government and its officials and their sense of kinship with fellow citizens."

I wonder how many of these might be vigilantism? If someone didn't trust the government to execute justice--not a terribly unreasonable assumption--they might exercise it themselves. Yes, this is the plot for "A Time to Kill"...

You wouldn't think it would be a very high percentage of the total, however.

Black imprisonment rates are about 2.4 times higher than those of Hispanics, who are about equally poor and uneducated on average.

Asian American imprisonment rates are only 22 percent of white American imprisonment rates, despite similar levels of affluence.

Black imprisonment rates are 33 times higher than those of Asian Americans.

Race matters.

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