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Stark racial disparities in murder rates persist, even as overall murder rate declines

Homicide rates for Black men, Black women and Native women are consistently higher than for other racial and ethnic groups.

by Emily Widra, May 3, 2018

I wanted to compare homicide victimization across racial, ethnic, and gender groups over time, since this data is deceptively difficult to find in one place.

In the process, I found that the murder rate for Black men is consistently higher than the murder rate for men of all other racial and ethnic groups has ever been:

Graph showing men's homicide rates broken down by race from 1980 to 2015.Despite a drop in overall murder rates, the racial disparities in male murder rates have persisted.

Controlling for gender reveals more complexity. For example, the rate of homicide of Native women is higher than the rate of homicide for Hispanic and Latina women, whereas the opposite is true for their male counterparts:

Graph showing women's homicide rates broken down by race from 1980 to 2015.Overall, Black, Hispanic or Latinx, and American Indian and Alaskan Native people are murdered at much higher rates than their white or Asian and Pacific Islander counterparts.

Overall murder rates have been declining since 1980 – when the total rate for murder and non-negligent manslaughter was 10.2 per 100,000 people – but violent crime is still a favorite talking point among lawmakers and newspeople.

What’s important is to change how we talk about it. White victims tend to get close attention, while the murder of people of color is callously left unexplored. We can and should be investigating why communities of color suffer disproportionately high rates of violent crime, as these rates belie a lot of geographic and economic complexity. (To dig deeper, see Krivo and Peterson’s study controlling for neighborhood disadvantage, as well as the Violence Policy Center’s recent study of black homicide victimization.)

Emily Widra is a Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact)

10 responses:

  1. Travis says:

    How ’bout instead of or alongside your fixation on the disparity in rate of murder VICTIMIZATION of blacks compared to whites, you mention the fact that year in and year out there is an EVEN GREATER DISPARITY between the rate at which whites and blacks COMMIT MURDER, to the extent that they murder white people at a higher per capita rate THAN WHITE PEOPLE DO?

  2. AC says:

    I was gonna argue with Travis but he has a point. That data is greatly ignored and swept under the rug. The amount of blacks being victimized is due to the higher rates of blacks committing the acts. Have you looked at the Bureau of Statistics? https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv17.pdf Appendix Table 12 on page 27. If you look at the percentage of offenders versus victims, only blacks difference shown is larger than any other racial group. On top of that look at the staggering difference of population of whites versus blacks. That’s over 2.9% TIMES the population size difference.

    You are causing a great disparity between the races and increasing the divide while ignoring the problem: Black communities need help to lower the number of offenders.
    This data was available since December of 2018. You had access to the source of data and did not use it. CDC is a great website but it does not hold these stats as it is not their job nor focus (as says their name: Center of Disease Control and Prevention).

  3. AC says:

    Oops my fault. I meant to type 2.8% not 2.9%.

  4. Billy says:

    @travis wait, do black people, per capita, commit more murder against black and white people than white people do? Good thing you mentioned it because I would have never heard about otherwise. It a good thing the internet has warriors like you like to repeat this fact over and over again! If you have a solution to this problem you’d like to suggest with that data, I’d love if you would mention it, in detail, every time you bring that info up.

    Also, the authors point wasn’t too much different from your own. This author only seems to bring up victimization rates to argue that more studies need to be done to help LOWER the VICTIMIZATION RATES, which I assume is something you want? The author then mentions a study that talks about crime in black neighborhoods and then mentions that there has been a lot of studies with white communities and the author would like more studies with black communities. The author has good goals if your goal is to have less victim, which is clearly your goal, right?

  5. Roberta says:

    @Billy “do black people, per capita, commit more murder against black and white people than white people do?” Yes, they do. Not sure about solutions and the reasons appear multi-faceted (socio-economic disadvantages due to the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, etc). I disagree with the author that white murder victims get more attention. Look at ABCNEWS.com, Yahoo.com, Buzzfeednews.com, etc. you can’t help but notice the “social justice” influence on what news actually gets reported. If African Americans are responsible for more than 50% of murders (as victims and as perpetrators) then why so few “articles” reporting the actual crimes on these websites? Given that there are 17k+ murders per year in this country there’s no way for these national news websites to report all of them so they have to be selective. The author is implying that the media callously ignores minorities on reporting, presumably for some racist motivations, but that’s not true. If anything, the media focuses on white crime and criminals to fit a narrative that white supremacy is some kind of threat in this country – specifically to “POC.” The overwhelming majority of violent crime is within the same racial/ethnic class but you wouldn’t know that by reading the news. We as a society benefit from lower crime rates, decreasing prison populations and an increase in the number of citizens contributing to the betterment of our communities.

  6. Cotton says:

    Since blacks seem to murder whites at an alarming level why is there no outrage from white people the same way blacks act if a black criminal is killed by police? Is it racist to inform white kids of the threat blacks may play in their lives? This issue needs to be discussed on a national level. Blacks need to stop acting as though they are the victim when in reality they cause all the pain to both black and white communities. This is the problem with liberal and democrats. Ignore the data and push the lying agenda. We will never move forward as a country until we address the wildly out of control black criminality. This is not just a problem in the US but the world yet people want to criticize whites for removing themselves from neighborhoods with large black populations. They are not racist just being realists. If statistics and what your own eyes see tell a different story than what the news tells you then who is the real racist? Time to stay wake!

  7. T says:

    @Cotton

    It’s quite interesting how you posed that argument and it underlies either a colorist agenda or being a victim to media talking points. Let’s pose your question in a manner that actually compares apples to apples:

    “Since blacks seem to murder whites at an alarming level why is there no outrage from white people the same way blacks act if a black [kills a white?”]

    There, now you have a question that one can answer. So, my question is do you truly believe 2 civilians in conflict leading to murder is the same as an appointed officer killing a civilian?

    Curious thought patterns among you that exposes your conditioning to the system. The programming is real.

  8. CuirPig says:

    @Emily Widra,

    I have to say that I am a little angry after reading your comment that white victims receive more media coverage than black victims. Not only is this an absolute lie, it completely avoids the real topic.

    I ask you to imagine what the United States would be like if we were to announce publicly that less than 4.6% of the population of the United States was responsible for killing more people every year than all of the other races combined. Imagine the fear that would cause and yet it is a statistical fact that you can read more about below.

    Media reports crime very specifically to avoid sounding racist. But they have completely gone overboard and now it is creating more harm than good.

    We know statistically that black people are killing black people just like white people are killing white people. This is born out by every statistic and every possible set of data you can ever find. It is a fact. Interracial killings of blacks killing whites maybe statistically higher than whites killing blacks, but it is pretty close and both are statistically nearly insignificant when compared to the vast majority of intentional deaths in the United States.

    We also know that in 2017, there were approximately 15,077,030 black males in the United States which has a total estimated population of 327,167,434 which means that black males make up 4.6% of the total population and since black males are more likely than black females to commit murder or non-negligent homicide, that means 4.6% of the population is responsible for more murders than whites. In fact, because 4.6% of the population is responsible for 53.1% of ALL murder and non-negligent homicides, they are responsible for more intentional death than any other race as well as ALL COMBINED RACES.

    If you want to know why this statistic is not being held out as the single largest cause of non-medical death amongst black youth ages 18-24, it’s because of the fear of sounding racist.

    In fact, using just the numbers, being a black youth 18-24, you are so much more likely to get shot by a black male than you are a cop that it would make you afraid to leave your house. But because of the fear of sounding racist, we cannot discuss this fact. Even if we attempt to discuss it, it is only after we lay down the necessary platitudes and excuses for the single most violent and reprehensible fraction of a tiny portion (4.8%) of our population. *** We have to make sure that everyone knows that white people cause these black males to kill because of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued systemic racism.

    *** Please notice that I said a fraction of the black male population. This is because so few black males are actually doing the killings that it is statistically inappropriate to use all black males as the source of the killings. This is the terrible and inappropriate tactic employed by black activists when lying about cop killings. They use a per-capita analysis when it is highly inappropriate. But that’s another topic.

    If you want to compare cop killing by racial distribution to violent crimes by racial distribution, it paints a much different and probably more accurate picture.

    If you want to compare cop killings by racial distribution to cop interactions by racial distribution, it paints a much different picture and probably the most accurate picture.

    But comparing any statistic relative to all people in any geographic area to come up with per capita analysis is only done if it paints the picture that blacks are oppressed. And this is a problem because while a portion of the black community is oppressed, once people realize that the statistics they have been told about the unfair killing of blacks by cop are a bald-faced lie, they then assume that blacks are not oppressed. It undermines the legitimacy of their actions when inappropriate statistical distributions are used.

    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/table-43

    @dore
    Seriously you want to bark at someone for being unbiased and provide theRoot, Salon, and Southern Poverty Law center as virtuous and unbiased resources for criminal statistics and analysis. Laughably inappropriate regardless of how poorly worded Travis’ comment was.
    @everyone
    The thing about per capita analysis of any of this kind of thing is that it allows for outrage over a terrible application of statistics. Using the entire population of a geographic area to determine crime rates per capita is entirely dependent on resolution (state, city, county, neighborhood, MTA) so you can pick your level of outrage by picking how wide you cast your net.

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