An erroneous conclusion re crime

Ron Unz is a smart guy and he does a lot of good work. But I strongly suspect he made a fundamental error in his examination of race and crime rates:

This contentious history of racially-charged social analysis was certainly in the back of my mind when I began my quantitative research into Hispanic crime rates in late 2009. One traditional difficulty in producing such estimates had been the problematical nature of the data. Although the FBI Uniform Crime Reports readily show the annual totals of black and Asian criminal perpetrators, Hispanics are generally grouped together with whites and no separate figures are provided, thereby allowing all sorts of extreme speculation by those so inclined.

In order to distinguish reality from vivid imagination, a major section of my analysis focused on the data from America’s larger cities, exploring the correlations between their FBI-reported crime rates and their Census-reported ethnic proportions. If urban crime rates had little relation to the relative size of the local Hispanic population, this would indicate that Hispanics did not have unusually high rates of criminality. Furthermore, densely populated urban centers have almost always had far more crime than rural areas or suburbs, so restricting the analysis to cities would reduce the impact of that extraneous variable, which might otherwise artificially inflate the national crime statistics for a heavily urbanized population group such as Hispanics.

My expectations proved entirely correct, and the correlations between Hispanic percentages and local crime rates were usually quite close to the same figures for whites, strongly supporting my hypothesis that the two groups had fairly similar rates of urban criminality despite their huge differences in socio-economic status. But that same simple calculation yielded a remarkably strong correlation between black numbers and crime, fully confirming the implications of the FBI racial data on perpetrators.

He’s correct about blacks committing crime at much higher rates than whites. But I think I can show that his conclusion that Hispanics commit rates at about the same rate as whites is wrong. The reason is that the metric he chose to try to pull out the information that the FBI is hiding is suboptimal.

I reached a very different conclusion when looking at race and homicide by firearm in 2012.

We will assume, for the sake of argument, that Hispanic victims are synonymous with Hispanic killers. The BJS supports this assumption, reporting that from 1976 to 2005, 86% of white victims were killed by whites and 94% of black victims were killed by black.  A CDC report states: “Homicide rates in 2010 among non-Hispanic, African-American males 10-24 years of age (51.5 per 100,000) exceeded those of Hispanic males (13.5 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic, White males in the same age group (2.9 per 100,000).”

We’re not concerned with the black homicide rate since we already know that.  What interests us is how the remaining 4,116 gun homicides are divided between whites and Hispanics.  The distribution indicated by the CDC report shows that 3,388 were Hispanic and only 728 were white.  This may be a little skewed by the focus on young males, but nevertheless provides a very credible estimate of 6.8 per 100k population, which would put the US-Latin firearms homicide rate in between Nicaragua at 5.9 and Paraguay at 7.4.  It would also indicate that the US-White homicide rate is 0.32 per 100k population, a per capita rate very close to The Netherlands at 0.33 although still higher than France, Germany, or the UK.

Now, it is theoretically possible that while young Hispanics commit a disproportionate amount of firearms homicide, Hispanics of all ages commit other crimes at the same rate as whites. This strikes me as a very unlikely conclusion, especially in light of what we know anecdotally from police and media reports.  Obviously more work needs to be done before the matter can be considered settled, but I think that this is sufficient to call Mr. Unz’s conclusion into question.