Saturday, February 21, 2009

Race, crime, and getting high: The Longitudinal Study of Violence Against Women asked 455 male college students about criminal activities and drug use. Illegal acts ranged from minor items like lying about one's age to more serious crimes like attacking students or carrying weapons. I was interested by the racial pattern:

Mean crime index

Whites 1.73
Blacks 2.09
SD .67

According to conventional wisdom, the only reason why blacks have higher rates of crime is because many are from the lower class. (Many people where I work assume that criminal justice system bias produces the disparity. The self-report data presented here show these guys are full of it.) The social status of black and white students at the same college is similar, but black criminality is half a standard deviation higher.

To be more specific, look at the graph to see the huge difference on the question of hitting other students in the last year.

Mean alcohol and marijuana use index

Whites 4.43
Blacks 3.33
SD 2.37

By contrast, you can see that white college students drink and smoke pot more than their black counterparts. The difference is a little less than one-half of a standard deviation. The stereotype of the drunk frat boy is confirmed.


  1. The utter stupidity of this post made me de-subscribe from your RSS feed. Are you seriously claiming that that once you're matched for social class, you've controlled out all social and cultural differences? Any analysis that includes the phrase "the guys are full of it" (referring to black people) isn't scientific, it's diatribe.

  2. Anonymous10:30 AM

    *whoosh* Did I miss something? To me Ron G. seems to have been trying to debunk the notion that "the only reason why blacks have higher rates of crime is because many are from the lower class". At that point all he really has to do is control for social class, no?

    Controlling out all cultural differences would obscure the point, because whether or not you whether or not you tend to beat your classmates is definitely cultural (among other things, perhaps). It's no good to say something like Blacks successfully raised to be genteel upper-class Yankees aren't particularly violent. It's a tautology. Assigning all violent behavior to pure chance is a recipe for feckless anxiety, if not outright neurosis. Assigning all violent behavior to victimhood is a recipe for infinite victimhood.

    And, of course, "these guys are full of it" referred to left-wing victimologists, not "black people", but I suspect you already knew that.

  3. Anonymous3:44 PM

    Actually I would assume that many black college students are still from a much lower class than their white counterparts. Many black students are first generational college students, from relatively poorer backgrounds than their white classmates. Is there anything in the study which controls for income?

  4. Anon: No, there are no controls for income.


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