Which, to “Gun Safety” advocates, is just wrong; they insist on constraining the comparison to only “western, industrialized” countries – as if the life of a human being in Honduras or South Africa is somehow worth less, or their murder is of less weight than someone from Highland Park. And I noted that the reasons for the comparison are to make the US look as bad as possible, against small, socially-homogenous countries like Denmark and Norway and Japan.
But I noted that among larger, westernized nations with at least a passing notion of human rights and any kind of social diversity at all, the US still fares pretty well
But then, I thought – what if we factor out the parts of US society that have the major crime problems? What happens then?
In The City: First, I thought, we should take a look at America’s cities.
For whatever reason, cities have almost always had a disproportionate murder rate.
So why is that?
Well, that question is one that keeps scads of otherwise unemployable sociologists hard at work. But it’s no secret that American cities are faced with three pathologies:
- A “War on Drugs” that creates a lucrative black market in which someone with no education can make a stupendous income – provided he or she is willing to defend that income by all means necessary. The estimates of how many murders occur due to the “drug war” vary, but range as high as half.
- An “urban culture” that glorifies violence.
- Decades of social service agencies using the inner cities as “warehouses for the poor”, for bureaucratic and political reasons. And while there’s little direct causal link between poverty and crime, long-term grinding poverty certainly provides fertile soil for growing crime.
Also, of the top 50 cities in terms of homicide rate – accounting for 11.3% of the population of the US – all but a very vanishing few are Democrat-controlled. This isn’t so much intended to politicize the issue as to point out that single-party-dominated governments are always less effective at carrying out government’s valid jobs, like law enforcement.
But the fact is, some American cities have downright third-world murder rates: Saint Louis tops the list in 2014, with almost 50 homicides per 100,000. Detroit clocks in at 43.5. We have 25 cities with murder rates above 10/100,000 – triple the national average.
In fact, if you take the ten US cities with the highest murder rates -Saint Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltmore, Newark, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Atlanta, Cincinnati – they add up to about 1% of the entire population of the US – but they account for a solid 10% of all homicides in America.
But let’s go bigger than that.
The fifty American cities with the highest murder rates – from Saint Louis down to Charlotte, NC (5.5/100,000) together accounted for approximately 4.426 murders in 2015 – about 3,000 of them likely with firearms.
The Math: So when you take the top fifty US cities in terms of murder rate, with their 34,7521.052 people (11.3% of the population), and their approximately 4,530 homicides from the US’s population and total number of murders, and subtract them from the rest of the United states, you get about 284 million people, and a murder rate of just under 2.68 per 100.000 people. That’s roughly equal to the murder rate in Hungary – it ranks the US at #145 worldwide.
It also means that about 11% of the entire US population commits about 38% of the murders.
But the problems of American urban society aren’t the only ones driving up the United States’ homicide rate.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at a problem that dates back to before there were cities, or a United States for that matter.
- Last Friday: Intro
- Today: The effect urban crime has on America’s murder rate.
- Tomorrow: We’ll look at the murder rate in the Deep South.
- Wednesday: We’ll see what the US’ murder rate would be without its biggest social pathologies.
Where The Raw Murder Numbers Came From: Murder numbers by city are approximate; rather than look up fifty different city’s murder records for 2014, I multiplied (City Population/100,000) by each city’s murder rate. The homicide numbers for each city should be within 1-2 of actual totals for the year.
By the way – justifiable homicides were not, as far as I know, systematically excluded. But we’re polishing the cannonball, here.