Here’s an interesting reconceptualisation of a commonly quoted statistic.
Excerpted article below. Follow the link for the whole story.
The Mistake Of Only Comparing US Murder Rates To “Developed” Countries
Much of the political thinking about violence in the United States comes from unfavorable comparisons between the United States and a series of cherry-picked countries with lower murder rates and with fewer guns per capita. We’ve all seen it many times. The United States, with a murder rate of approximately 5 per 100,000 is compared to a variety of Western and Central European countries (also sometimes Japan) with murder rates often below 1 per 100,000. This is, in turn, supposed to fill Americans with a sense of shame and illustrate that the United States should be regarded as some sort of pariah nation because of its murder rate.
Note, however, that these comparisons always employ a carefully selected list of countries, most of which are very unlike the United States…
Indeed, it makes more sense to compare the US to other states in the Americas than to Europe or Japan. The US and most Latin American countries were settled in similar time periods. They are frontier countries settled mostly by European immigrants that displaced a native population (to varying degrees), and most of them gained independence from European imperial nations in a similar time period. They tend to have ethnically diverse populations, and many have been impacted by the slave trade that ended in the 19th century.
European countries share very few of these qualities in common with the US.
So, it would seem that the old diktat of “thou shalt only compare US murder rates to the approved ‘developed’ countries” is based on really no objective standard at all. And we should stop doing it.
If we’re honestly trying to evaluate the nature of crime and violence in a comparative atmosphere, we cannot limit ourselves to a handful of countries that have very little in common with the US beyond a handful of economic indicators…
Why not use the UN’s human development index instead? That would seem to make at least as much sense if we’re devoted to looking at “developed countries.”
So, let’s do that. Here we see that the OECD’s list contains Turkey, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Chile. So, if we’re honest with ourselves, that must mean that other countries with similar human development rankings are also suitable for comparisons to the US.
Well, Turkey and Mexico have HDI numbers at .75. So, let’s include other countries with HDI numbers either similar or higher. That means we should include The Bahamas, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, and Latvia.
You can see where this is going. If we include countries that have HDI numbers similar to — or at least as high as — OECD members Turkey and Mexico, we find that the picture for the United States murder rate looks very different (correctly using murder rates and not gun-deaths rates):
Wow, that US sure has a pretty low murder rate compared to all those countries..