Race is not the Main Driver of Crime

Thanks for the feedback. Let me address some of the issues you raised. I was not suggesting that Africa had lower crime rate than the US. The question I was specifically trying to answer was the common American conservative charge that crime in America is simply caused by the existence of black people. Or the insistence that blacks are simply incarcerated more because they do more crime, and that this behavior is simply something inherent about black people.

The rates in subsaharan Africa generally seem on par with the murder rate among black people in America.

I would strongly push back against that notion. The murder rate among African-Americans in the US is 20.9, while the average for all of Africa is 12.5. That is quite a lot lower.

In fact the only countries in Africa that beat the US statistics is South Africa and Lesotho. And both of these countries have a very difficult and racist past. When you read about how Apartheid was practiced and the suppression, and how whites actively sought to make different black populations hate each other, then you have a receipt for violence.

In fact you can see how any country with a strong colonial past, where racism and slavery played a big part in their history you will see a lot of violence. You can see how e.g. South American and Caribbean countries are typically far more violent than Africa. Just look at the statistics.

This is basically my hypothesis that the violence among blacks in the US is largely an outcome of the violence and oppression lingering from hundreds of years of slavery, oppression and racism. It is not something as many conservatives would seem to suggest, something inherent in being black. I don’t rule out the possibility that there can be an element of this. I am open minded even about the negative. Yet the extreme variation in violence and social problems among black populations across the world suggests these are primarily cultural issues and not genetic issues.

Frankly I am at unease having to talk about a whole group of people like this, which are not my own. We should not have to do it. I merely do this, because I want to push back against the massive amount of alt-right style propaganda being pushed out online. I know some leftist are offended by the mere fact that I am doing it. And to some degree they are right. We should not have to prove the value of human life. Geneticists have long ago proven that variations between human populations are very minor, and not enough to build racist theories on.

One alternative I would suggest is to try to look at black populations across the developed world. Here, it seems that there are frequently racial differences in crime rates.

You where interested in crime statistics from other countries. I can give some of the official statistics from Norway produced by SSB. Look at page 27 for table 3.3.

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What you can see here is that there are significant variations between different subgroups of immigrants to Norway. One can see that specific groups seems to matter more than skin color. E.g. immigrants from Kosovo are involved in 113 crimes 1000 inhabitants. While Eritreans are at 67.1. In other words you can find specific white populations doing more crime than specific black populations. To me that suggests there are important cultural factors at play. E.g. Russians, which are most definitely white are also quite high on the crime statistics at 76.1.

Because blacks all over the west tend to come from poor countries, with disadvantaged backgrounds I think it makes sense to they will be involved in more crime than the native population. You can see this form the statistics in Norway that in general anyone from countries which are kind of messed up in a way do more crime. E.g. Iraq had a civil war. Crime of people from Afghanistan is also just as high as for the worst of African populations in Norway. Yet they are not black. However it is a deeply troubled country like much of Africa.

London is a much safer place, over all. Most of these murders are stabbings, not shootings. But the ratio of black and white murder in London is about the same (5X) as in the US (6X).

First of all those number are as far as I understand not age adjusted with matters a lot in most European countries as immigrants tend to have significantly more children and many have not been in the country long enough to reach old age. Most crimes are done at relatively young age.

This is different from the US, where the African-American population has been present for hundreds of years and whom to my knowledge does not have significantly more children than the rest of the population.

Homicide rate in London is 1.6, which means even if blacks are overrepresented there is just no way to reach the African-American homicide rate of 20.9.

It is my opinion that absolute differences matter, because the conservative argument is that the high crime in the US is primarily caused by blacks and hispanics and that they are just somehow inferior people who are doomed to be violent criminals. What the UK shows is that there are other likely economic and cultural factors which play a much larger role in the high homicide rate in the US.

There is not principle reason why homicide rates among blacks should be much higher in the US than the UK. Or for whites in the US vs whites in the UK for that matter.

It is a very important point, because numerous American conservatives and populist right wingers in Europe are claiming Europe will descend into a sort of American style violent carnage as soon as more immigrants arrive. The assumption is that criminality is a fixed attribute tied to somebodys genetic makeup. If immigrants are overrepresented on crime statistics, the thinking goes, getting more of them will only lead to an increasingly violent society.

Yet this is not the actual reality we experience. The homicide rate in Norway today is around 0.5 today, which is exceptionally low by world standards. The US has 5.3 and Europe is about 3 on average. Yet in 1986 it was 1.6 in Norway. That was the worst period for Norway. I was in elementary school then and could probably count on one hand how many kids who where not white on my whole school. Today over 60% of the kids in kids elementary school have immigrant background.

Immigrants where overrepresented on crime statistics in 1986 as well as in 2020. According to the populist-right our murder rate would just have kept going up from 1.6 until 2020. Yet that didn’t happen. Instead it dropped like a stone while Norway at the same time was taking in a huge number of immigrants and refugees. In other words society is able to drop crime levels for all population groups even if it is not necessarily able to erase the relative differences.

We can go further back in time. Back in 1550, the murder rate in the largest town in Norway at the time Bergen was 83 per 100 000. That made it worse than any City in America today. St. Lois has a rate of 64.54. Norway pulled this off without any blacks, browns or asians. We did it all with white people.

However it may be interesting to observe that this was also a time when Norwegian culture was also far more similar to that of countries from which countries are overrepresented on modern Norwegian crime statistics. There was still a strong honor culture, where an insult could get you killed.

Summary of My Claims

Let me try to summarize the points I am trying to make. I believe overall crime rate of any society is not primarily determined by who lives there but by the social, economic and cultural reality that exists there. In particular inequality plays a significant part. Countries with high levels of inequality tend to have high crime rate. The US is a western country that neatly fits this observation.

Within society there will be differences in crime between different groups of people. My claim here is that this difference will be primarily the result of the background of this population. In any population with where the following is true, you should expect to see overrepresentation of crime:

  • Prevalence of poverty.
  • Low levels of education.
  • Ghettos or segregation. Any population segregated from a more affluent population which could serve as role models or positive influence will suffer.
  • Negative cultural heritage.

The latter needs some more details. I don’t know what to call this, but basically we are products of our parents, immediate family, and people in our neighborhood. The values that exist in this culture you are part of matter a lot for your success.

E.g. children that grow up in Eastern Germany don’t do as well as those who grew up in Western Germany. Even when they move. There is cultural difference between East and West Germany that drags people down, imposed on people form decades of dictatorship.

I think we will always see some difference between groups of people as long as we are able to identify groups, but that does not mean we cannot reduce group differences or make improvements to all groups in total, through changes of all of society.

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Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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