Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Race and attitudes toward crime

The stacked bar charts show attitudes toward various types of crime for college-age males who are white, black, or some other race (Longitudinal Study of Violence Against Women). Across the board, blacks and those of some other race think crime is more acceptable and are more likely to say they would commit a crime if they knew they could get away with it. (I threw in infidelity as well).

In a society with large numbers of blacks and Latinos (most of the "other race") there is greater need for a punitive criminal justice system since there are fewer people who would not commit crimes in the absence of punishment.


  1. Your conclusion is perhaps backed up by an article by Steve Sailer. His data suggest that, while all groups get an increase in criminality between the initial (foreign-born) generation and the first US-born generation, with whites the increase is dramatically less. This implies that the increased freedom of the United States vis a vis other countries stresses the immigrant's ethical system.

    The foreign-born immigrants are used to places with no Miranda rights, often with no adversarial system in criminal trials, limited gun rights, etc., and they are used to having to behave for that reason. Old habits die hard but American culture militates against strict parental discipline. Americans are supposed to self-govern on the basis of simplified utilitarian or Judeo-Christian reasoning - and not all groups are equally good at doing that.

  2. Looking at a study related to the one cited by Steve Sailer, it looks like there may be a little more buttressing my idea about American freedom being hard for some to handle: among Latinos, the group with the smallest generational change in crime rates is also the group that is always US-born - the Puerto Ricans. That is to say, folks born in PR moving to the mainland start out with high crime rates, which increase somewhat among their sons. Other than Mexicans, no other Latino group "catches up" to the criminality of the Puerto Ricans. Something about Latin American countries seems to suppress the criminal impulse in people born there.

    Or does it? I haven't done the math, but at first blush it looks like the places that have given us the highest fraction of their populations have also given us the most criminals, and that these are also the places closest to the United States. (This would be unsurprising, perhaps, even in the jet age.) This implies that mass immigration is a problem per se. The average character of the mass of people traveling a short distance, along a well-travelled path, is likely going to be different from the few making more difficult journeys. Still, this wouldn't explain why Mexico-born immigrants are less crime-prone than those born in South America.

  3. Anonymous10:49 AM

    "In a society with large numbers of blacks and Latinos (most of the "other race") there is greater need for a punitive criminal justice system since there are fewer people who would not commit crimes in the absence of punishment."

    Good luck with that...

  4. Ron, how do the ratios compare to convictions by race for the various crimes? Are the expressed attitudes reasonable proxies for actual behavior?

  5. Wow, who are the savages who "strongly disagree" with the statement that it is wrong to hit someone for no reason?

    I know tucking my shirt into my basketball shorts is something many black guys can't seem to resist verbally disapproving of, but I don't think I've come into contact with any who'd hit me for it--and at least in that case they'd have some shred of a reason for doing so.

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