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A Problem with National Homicide Statistics

mises.org /  / Feb 17, 2017

Donald Trump has been using and abusing national homicide statistics to suit his own political ends. But, using nationwide statistics — even correct ones — has long been problematic.

We’ve learned, for example, that when comparing the homicide rate in the US, comparisons with other countries of vastly different size and demographics are not particularly useful. Because of the vast geography of the United States, it is important to break down the homicide rate into smaller pieces, and this gives us insights into how statewide and nationwide gun regulations fail to account for large disparities in rates of violence.

One such method in breaking down the homicide numbers is to look at individual States. However, even this is problematic. If one is to look at a more detailed level, one finds that even neighboring jurisdictions can have wildly different homicide rates. One great example is the comparison of adjacent counties on opposite sides of the Mexico-US border. Further, if one were to visit the Trulia Crime Map, one can find that violent crime can vary depending on which block of a city you currently find yourself. This becomes evident in this map of Chicago —a city famous in the media for being a chronically violent place. Of course, if one goes to, say, the Avondale neighborhood or along Lake Michigan, the chances one will find himself a victim of a homicide is slim.

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