Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Diversity breeds murder, inequality does not: A standard finding in criminological research is that homicide is strongly related to inequality: in societies with a big gap between the wealthy and the poor, the poor become resentful and take it out on nearby targets, also poor. This theory always seemed a bit of a stretch to me, the idea that I hate how the Man is screwing me, so I kill some guy at the bar for calling me queer. The theory turned every fist fight into something political. But the macrolevel correlation has been very reliable and very strong, I admit. A little investigation of mine evidently explains what is going on. Past cross-national studies always had a handful of Latin American countries with soaring homicide rates, and we all know that part of world reigns supreme in the rich-poor gap. So these outliers basically determined the size of the correlations. And yes, Latin murders are frequently political and tied to inequality.

But the whole situation changes with the sample I just constructed. I gathered the most recent homicide data for all countries that have published it. Data is now available from all the former Soviet countries. These are relatively equal countries, many of which have horrible violence of the organized crime type. When they are included in the analysis, the inequality-homicide link disappears.

Ethnic heterogenity, on the other hand, does have a significant influence on violence. The correlation between it and male homicide victmization rates is .41; for female victims, it's .48. Diversity breeds distrust and conflict, and can even lead to murder.


  1. I was wondering if there were any statistics on the differences in crime between races at particular income levels.

    What I'm looking for specifically, and that I have never actually seen, is comparisons of various crimes (white and blue colar) between, say, blacks and whites who are each making below the poverty level (whatever that is currentely--$14K,$15K?) and comparisons of white and blue collar crimes committed by blacks and whites making, say $100K and above or over $150K, etc.

    Crime stats such as these sound like an easy enough thing to figure out, but has anyone ever crunched the numbers on this? If not, I think this would be a good post. If so, can someone point me towards the link?


  2. Tyler: Stats on race, social class, and types of crime at the individual level are surprisingly rare. The most famous I know of is old: Marvin Wolfgang followed all the boys born in 1958(?) in Philadelphia. According to his data, street crime rates, especially violent crime, was higher among middle-income blacks than LOWER-income whites. As for white collar, UCR arrests stats show black over-representation in embezzlement (the typical case of this is small, not big: skimming at work, that sort of thing). I know of no white collar stats that look at race, and control for income or position. If I find stuff, I'll post.

  3. Interesting. But it is hard to evaluate without more detail on the data. Will you post some of it?

  4. Thanks, I'll check back periodically! And if I find anything, which I doubt I will, I'll let you know...

  5. roberthume: I intentionally keep this kind of analysis vague in order to keep anonymous. Few people do cross-national research of this sort. Let me say that the sample is around 40 countries (and is getting bigger, so they'll be more to come). All regions of the world are included expect I don't have much from SS Africa. I used various sources. I report Pearson correlations and have not checked for skewness or kurtosis problems. And you can tell, this is not a multivariate analysis, so it's admittedly crude.


The Inductivist admits that culture matters

A pure naturist would claim that the culture of East Asians would not change after moving to America. Let's test this with one question ...