Friday, June 3, 2011

Long-term Homicide Rates

The American data is consistent with European data... Do note that some correction should be made for the fact that violence is less lethal when people are healthier and medical care is more effective.

The bottom line is that there has been a big and welcome decrease in homicide rates in Europe and America over the past several centuries. To put these numbers in perspective, however, note that the homicide rate in New Orleans today is 52 per 100,000 and in Detroit it’s 40 per 100,000 so even with a lower average there is lots of variation. Brazil today is around 22 per 100,000 not too far from America in the 19th century. The homicide rate in El Salvador is 71 per 100,000, in Jamaica (!) 60 per 100,000 and in Honduras 67 per 100,000 — all higher than fifteenth century Europe. Thus, the past was a more violent place but not so violent as to be unknown to the present.


  1. I am sure back in the 1700s there where certain locations that drove the high rates as well, but those rates would be in the hundreds.

    This kind of squashes the old “if only our founding fathers could see what was going on today…” saying.

  2. Actually, it says almost the opposite of what you claim, TS.

    As the article points out--humans are healthier today and medical advances are far better. Think about it--infection of wounds used to be an almost always fatal condition a century or more ago. If you read accounts of the Civil War and even WWI, infection killed more troops than anything else. Today, it's fairly well-managed.

    The point TS wishes to ignore is that nations which become more established--in terms of economic security and stable political systems--ought to see all forms of violence decrease markedly. This has happened in the US but not at the rate it has in nations in Europe, which haven't always enjoyed economic a nd politrical stability as the US has.

  3. So you wouldn't count it as a gun death if the victim died from an infected bullet wound?

  4. Are we smoking dope, TS?

    The issue is that today a GSW has about a 15% liklihood of being fatal. A century ago, a GSW had a far greater chance of being a mortal wound becausev of the likelihood of infection.

  5. So guns were more deadly back then...

    Or at least "gun violence" was more deadly- if you prefer. Why then would our forefathers be appalled by gun violence today when far more people were being murdered in their time?

  6. I hate agreeing with Jade but he is correct. If we had 1930's medical technology in our major cities, the murder rate would be far greater. Even 1970 technology would increase the rate to over double what it is today.

    In spite of how the politicians prefer to spin it, the rate of aggravated assault (people trying to kill each other) has more than doubled in both the U.S. and Europe in the last 50 years. The world is a violent, dangerous place and the homicide rate would be much higher should we not have advanced trauma care and EMS services.

  7. What are you trying to say, TS, that the gun violence in the US really isn't that bad after all?

  8. FWM, I am not disagreeing either. Poor medicine absolutly contributed to guns being more deadly back then.

    Mike, I said no such thing. There were two points I made in my original post. It is amazing how many counter posts I have to make on your blog after you guys spin it.