Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fatal gun accidents by race

Using self-report data, we haven't gotten very far in identifying racial differences in personality. (Maybe there aren't many differences, but I doubt it.)  Let's try to infer traits from behavior. Fatal gun accidents (FGA) are an interesting first step. People usually kill themselves or others accidentally with guns when they are fooling around. A typical scenario is one drunk guy trying to shoot a beer can off the head of another drunk guy. Rates are highest for teenage males which supports the claim that the behavior measures recklessness.

The graph for the United States 1999-2006 shows that rates of fatal gun accidents vary across racial groups (raw data is available here). Amerindians and blacks have the highest numbers. Whites are in the middle, while rates for Asians are very low.

The incidence of FGAs should be affected by gun ownership prevalence and the popularity of hunting among groups. Amerindian numbers might be elevated a bit, but according to the GSS, they are not really much more likely to own guns or to hunt than whites. Blacks are less likely to hunt and possess firearms, so their high rates of FGAs must be due to more improper handling. According to the GSS, few Asians hunt or have guns, so this might lower their rates. (High rates of drunkenness among Indians might also raise their numbers, but self-report surveys indicate that blacks drink less or no more than whites).

I take this as evidence that, on average, Amerindians and blacks are more reckless than whites and Asians.

UPDATE: I checked, and Hispanics have rates similar to whites, but they are less likely to hunt and own guns (GSS)).


  1. Anonymous10:15 PM

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  2. Suicide made to look like an accident may also be playing a part in these numbers.

    Be tricky to sort out suicide from accidents. There might also be a lot of marginal cases, where a suicidal person simply takes chances while handling guns or driving that a non-suicidal person would not.


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