Study Finds Homicide Victimization Rates Falling

By Fuoco, Michael A. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 31, 2016 | Go to article overview

Study Finds Homicide Victimization Rates Falling


Fuoco, Michael A., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Homicide-victimization rates in the United States significantly dropped for white, black and Hispanic populations between 1990 and 2010, a new study has found, and the most significant declines occurred in the two minority groups.

The study revealed that three of the most significant social trends over the past 20 years - mass incarceration, rapid immigration and growing wealth inequality - all contributed to the reduction in the gaps between the white homicide victimization rate and those for blacks and Hispanics.

As a result, the black-white homicide victimization rate gap decreased by 40 percent, the Hispanic-white gap dropped by 55 percent and the black-Hispanic gap shrunk by 35 percent, according to the study published today in the April issue of the American Sociological Review.

"There is good news here - not only have the gaps closed, but they've closed in a good way," said Michael T. Light, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University. "They also could have closed if there would have been more white homicides, which no one would think is a good thing.

"That said, there's still a sizeable gap there that we certainly can't ignore. So, there's good news, but a lot of work still needs to be done," said Mr. Light, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology.

The study, which used data from 131 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, found the following:

* The white homicide victimization rate declined by 1.7 homicides per 100,000 whites - from 4.8 white victims per 100,000 whites in 1990 to 3.1 in 2010, for a 35 percent decrease.

* The black homicide victimization rate declined by 13.4 homicides per 100,000 blacks - from 33.9 black victims per 100,000 blacks in 1990 to 20.5 in 2010, for a 40 percent decrease.

* The Hispanic homicide victimization rate declined by 5.8 homicides per 100,000 Hispanics - from 12.4 homicide victims per 100,000 Hispanics in 1990 to 6.6 in 2010, for a 47 percent decrease.

Co-author Jeffery T. Ulmer, professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State University, said the study like others before it puts the lie to claims, such as those by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, that immigration increases crime.

"It's just not true," said Mr. Ulmer, who has a Ph.D. in sociology. "I really wish people would stop claiming that immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, lead to more crime, that immigration is an engine of crime. It's not and we're just the latest study to find this. …

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