The blogger Publius makes an extraordinary claim: If in America “black men [were] murdered at the same rate as everyone else, the overall [homicide] rate would drop to 1.9 out of 100,000 population. That would give the United States the 147th highest murder rate in the world.” This raises two questions: Is that true, and, if so, what does it mean?
Let’s examine the statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) report “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011,” there were 15,953 deaths by homicide that year, for a rate of 5.1 per 100,000 population. In its “Crime in the United States: 2011,” the FBI gives a lower estimate for the number of murder victims: 12,664. Of these victims, fully half—6,329—were black. And yet blacks comprised 13.1 percent of the population in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. (These figures square with those reported by the Wall Street Journal last August.)
Do Publius’s claims about the murder rate pan out? The Census Bureau lists a U.S. population of 311,591,917 for 2011. The number of homicides reported by the CDC, 15,953, divided by the total population, yields the rate of 5.1 per 100,000. If we assume that the FBI’s ratio holds for the larger number of homicides reported by the CDC, and take the number of nonblack homicides to nonblack population, we get 7,980 divided by 270,773,376, or 2.9 per 100,000 population. I’m not sure how Publius calculated his figures for the murder rate, but they seem to be low. And even the rate of 2.9 per 100,000—which is considerably below the national rate—is above that of Canada and western European nations. . . .