Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seven of the ten most violent countries in the world are Latin American: The World Heath Organization provides data on homicide rates in more than 70 countries. Here are the most recent estimates:

Male homicide victimizations per 100,000--most recent year available

1. Colombia 117.0
2. El Salvador 70.0
3. Sri Lanka 50.8
4. Russia 50.2
5. Brazil 49.0
6. Venezuela 48.7
7. Puerto Rico 33.2
8. Guatemala 32.1
9. Ecuador 30.8
10. Philippines 28.3

11. Paraguay 22.2
12. Kazakhstan 20.0
13. Estonia 19.6
14. Mexico 18.0
15. Ukraine 17.8
16. Panama 17.5
17. Latvia 16.8
18. Belarus 15.7
19. Moldova 14.7
20. Trinidad and Tobago 13.2

21. Argentina 12.1
22. Turkmenistan 11.9
23. Albania 11.8
24. Lithuania 11.7
25. Costa Rica 9.8
26. Chile 9.8
27. Kyrgyzstan 9.6
28. Thailand 9.5
29. USA 9.2
30. Uruguay 8.6

31. Cuba 7.9
32. Guyana 7.7
33. Georgia 6.9
34. Romania 5.2
35. Bulgaria 4.6
36. Uzbekistan 4.4
37. Azerbaijan 4.4
38. Armenia 3.6
39. Israel 3.5
40. Finland 3.5

41. Slovakia 3.4
42. Mauritius 3.2
43. Hungary 2.8
44. Poland 2.6
45. Portugal 2.5
46. Canada 2.2
47. Australia 2.1
48. Belgium 2.0
49. Slovenia 1.9
50. Korea 1.8

51. Ireland 1.8
52. Croatia 1.8
53. Bahrain 1.8
54. New Zealand 1.7
55. Spain 1.6
56. Netherlands 1.6
57. Greece 1.6
58. Czech Republic 1.6
59. Italy 1.5
60. Sweden 1.3

61. UK 1.2
62. Kuwait 1.1
63. France 1.1
64. Denmark 1.1
65. Norway 0.9
66. Hong Kong 0.9
67. Germany 0.8
68. Singapore 0.8
69. Switzerland 0.7
70. Austria 0.7

71. Japan 0.7
72. Egypt 0.1

The United States has a homicide problem, and one way to look at these numbers is in terms of how immigrants are likely to improve or worsen the level of violence here. Immigrants from East Asian and Western European regions should make things better, while people from Latin America should worsen the problem. Eastern Europe is a mixed bag. Of course, sub-Saharan Africa is also violent, but the countries don't have their act together enough to collect the necessary data.

Let's compare Colombia and Japan: the rate is 167 times higher in Cokumbia!

Now, of course, it's more complicated than this since immigrants are not usually representative of their mother countries, and conditions are different here than at home. But there is certainly a correlation: Asians and Western Europeans immigrants have proven to be law-abiding here, while Latin Americans have above-average rates of criminal involvement.

These patterns also undermine the arguments that social conditions in the U.S. generate criminality among immigrants: people who come here from violent countries tend to be violent here. They bring the proclivity with them.

One other point. An academic explanation of crime which has gone from being new and unknown to dominant in the past decade is called institutional anomie theory. It claims that societies have a crime problem to the extent that the economy dominates over other important institutions: families, schools, churches, government, etc. The free market generates the motivation to break the law, while all these other segments of society constrain behavior.

The bottom line here is that the freer the economy, the more crime that will be observed. Now, I can imagine an honest theoretician a century ago suggesting such an explanation, but even an amateur now knows that the data contradict this idea. Just look at the list. Many of the freest societies have little homicide, while many heavily regulated societies have a real problem.

International data is widely available, so Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld (the theorists) have no excuse. This is an obvious case of responding to the political demands of the discipline, rather than the realities of crime.

I'll say it again: mainstream social science is a sham.


  1. I'd say that exceedingly low figure for Egypt is about as trustworthy as a three-year-old condom.

  2. c.o. jones7:34 AM

    Interestingly enough, I have visited 7 out of the top 10 countries. All of them have huge problems with corruption - the police cannot be counted on to enforce the law impartially, because they are on the take. You have a business dispute with someone? You have him killed, and the police will not investigate as long as you've paid an adequate bribe.

    Also, none of the countries I've visited can be described as having "free" economies. Most are a sort of klepto-plutocracy.

    Importing immigrants who bring with them the attitude that it's normal to resolve disputes with violence, and a toleration for (if not a warm embrace of) corruption is a bad idea.

  3. lewis8:57 AM

    The Arab countries are relatively low on this list, yet their economies are far from free.
    Whether or not Latin American economy is free is dependent on who you ask. As someone who has visited Colombia many times, I can say that it's sort of like the stereotypical Wild West.
    Western European countries rank low, but they're known for high government intervention.

  4. Switzerland has one of the freest economies on the planet. It also has one of the lowest homicide rates in world -- lower than Germany, lower than France, lower than Italy. Switzerland is a useful illustration of how "institutional anomie" theory is wrong, wrong, wrong. At the canton level, it is a threefold controlled quasi-experiment that examines the effects of economic freedom while holding other variables constant.

  5. Anonymous2:05 PM

    I have read that USA's latest homicide rate is about 5 now. That figure over 9 per 100 000 is from seventies probably when homicide rate was at it's highest. And Switzerland figures have actuaööy gone up drastically and are now among the highest in Europe. Those figures seem in general out of date.

  6. anon: The numbers are not outdated. Note that they're based on MALE victims--that's why the U.S. is higher than the 5 you cite.

  7. Anonymous10:30 AM

    Does the US have a homicide problem, or do black Americans have a homicide problem? How would race-adjusted figures for the US compare to the much lower rates in Western Europe?

  8. Anon: From what I've seen, white Northerners are like Europeans, but white Southerners are somewhat higher. Cross-state analyses show that "percent black" explains about half of the variation.

  9. Anonymous4:14 PM

    Inductivist: "And it is also funny how all this 'Nazi' funded research has produced that findings that East Asians and Jews are smarter than white gentiles. 'Prof. Lynn, here is a 100 grand--bring back evidence that whites are...mediocre.'"

    The greatest geniuses of our planet have been of European and European-Jewish stock.

    Ages ago, the Jews integrated nicely into European societies; recently, the Japanese and Chinese have displayed their "mettle".

    Nevertheless, it is European.

  10. What a bullshaet report. Colombia ranks high because of the internal war against communist guerrillas, but as a whole any Colombian city is 10 times safer than cities in Venezuela, Central America, Brazil. As an example crime rate in Bogota is 19 per 100, that to Caracas at 130 per 100,000....7 times higher!!

  11. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Could you please, as a seriuos bloggist, mention where the heck you got those numbers. What sources were consulted (note that I suppose that you consult more than one)... this numbers seems to be of the past decade!!! Maybe can include the links to those "sources"

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