USA Homicide Rates: 1950-2010; By Race And Sex

How has the homicide rate changed through time? The Bureau of Justice Statistics of our great government compiles statistics on just this kind of thing.

This data arises from the report “Homicide Trends in United States” by Erica Smith and Alexia Cooper, from their table “Number of homicide victims, 1950-2010.”

This first chart is the rate per 100,000 population. Note that the early 1980s and of course the late 2000s were period of recessions.

Homicide rates per 100,000

Let the theories fly!

The next two figures break down the rate by Whites and Blacks. Note that the scale changes from picture to picture (the White rate is about a tenth of the Black rate). There are two lines in each: the red line shows the homicide rates (the “Killed”). The black line shows rate that each group was the assailant (the “Killers”).

Homicide rates per 100,000 for Whites

Whites killed and are killed by about the same, and falling, rate.

Homicide rate per 100,000 for Blacks

Blacks kill at higher rates than they are killed. Interestingly, the difference in the killer/killed rate appears roughly constant for most years, and narrowing slightly in recent years.

Finally, the same two plots for Males and Females (note the scale change again; Males are about five times higher).

Homicide rates per 100,000 for Males

Males have either a victim deficit or they are killing at rates higher than one would expect if there were no differences in sex.

Homicide rates per 100,000 for Females

After looking at the Female data, we conclude there is a discrepancy in sex: perhaps a government program can address this.


This post was inspired by my friend Charlie Martin who gave me the link for “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008“. But that website appears down, perhaps slain by too many hits?


  1. JH

    Any ideas on why the rate dipped during the second half of the 1990s?

    Plotting all curves on the same scale in one figure (which is just as easy to do in R) would make comparisons easier and clearer and fairer.

  2. Christina

    Obviously we need more female mass murderers…a government program to ban chocolate should solve this problem.

  3. William Sears

    My theory: This looks like the baby boom, offset by 18 to 32 years which is roughly the most violent time of life. To be meaningful the data should be re-normalized by age group.

  4. Ray

    The lack of female murders is obviously caused by male sexism and discrimination against females. We need some affirmative action in this matter. The government should set quotas, like title IX in college sports participation.

  5. Curt

    Lots of theories are flying around to explain the drop.

    Steven Leavitt of Freakonomics fame posits that the much wider availability of abortion in the 1970s meant fewer unwanted children which led to fewer maladjusted adults in the 1990s. He presents evidence that in states where abortion was available earlier, the crime rate dropped earlier.

    Another team (I forget names) recently argued that the phase-out of leaded gas in the 1970s and 1980s led to fewer kids with lead-induced impulse-control problems.

    Yet another team noted that the spike in crime rates followed the great emptying of our state mental hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s and stayed high until we imprisoned enough people that our total institutionalized populations (prisons plus mental hospitals) got back up to where it had been before.

  6. Tom

    My theory: The Brady Act.

  7. Hwan

    My guess is that the drop was due to the economy. Affordable living gives you social stability.

  8. GoneWithTheWind

    Rudy Giuliani served as mayor of NY City from 1994-2001. He (his policies) dramatically reduced all crimes including homicides in NY City. It was so effective it makes you wonder why Chicago and a handfull of other dangerous cities don’t emulate it.


    The first graph, homicide rates, pretty closely matches the recent warming and then stabilization of the last 10 years or so. I nominate AGW and by extension CO2

  10. Rich

    Perhaps females are inherently more likely to adopt untraceable methods and so avoid detection …

  11. Doug Proctor

    In the ’60s and ’70s it was academically known (from rat studies) that population murder rates were proportional to population density. Ghettos, by inference, were death zones due to too many people in too small a space. But the overall murder rate dropping shows this not to be true: as the American population has increased, the area in which they live has not, yet the murder rate has gone down to 50% of its height. One wonders about the academic interpretation of this fact. The interpretation, of course, is demographics. The 15 -24 age group has fallen.

    But I wonder. I have read of writers alive in Harlem in the ’30s, when there were large numbers of poor, urban blacks locked into Harlem with no opportunities, who said that it was a safe environment. Heroin and cocaine were readily available during this time, as well. Drug users and addicts have been around a long, long time and undoubtedly have always been responsible for property crime as they seek to fund their addiction. But murder does not seem to be a necessary tool for that.

    I go for a cultural devaluation of another life. In Johanenesburg, South Africa, the B&E course is now to murder whoever is in the house being burgled. People lock themselves in the room they are, to slow down or avoid contact with someone who has broken in an adjacent room, apparently. In Nigeria, killing is ubiquitous, with the police forces using killing as a tool as well as the “bad” guy. Death has little import within certain cultural groups.

    I don’t think it is just a “nothing to lose” scenario. It is more a mosquito-squashing ethic: we don’t brush off the annoyance of a mosquito, we squash it and move on. A terminal solution for a momentary annoyance – even a potential annoyance, if the mosquito is still in the air. That is a cultural value issue.

    Nature or nurture: clear to me. When nurture says it doesn’t matter a whit, and is more conventient, we go with expediency.

    So why the fall in murder rate? On this basis, our North American society has “advanced” ethically. In spite of video games, military adventures and violent movies. An interesting phenomenen.

  12. revGDright

    There were more no-fault divorce laws enacted among the states, encouraging couples to split instead of staying stuck together and seething with rage.
    There were also some drug wars going on in the 90’s that someone, apparently, won.

  13. Milton Hathaway

    At the risk of being irresponsibly disrespectful to the subject under discussion, I can’t help but relate this to past experience in ‘process control’.

    Five to ten humans lost to murder per 100K per year would be a process yield of 99.99% to 99.995% per year. (I once managed to get a process yield up over 98%, with a lot of time and effort, but I couldn’t keep it there for more than a couple months. The fallout from that process could be reworked or recycled or, worst case, scrapped at some nominal cost. So the analogy is on pretty thin ice from the start, but what the heck.)

    In an attempt to understand the factors that determine this process yield, we instinctively are drawn to examining the process fallout in as much detail as possible. I.e., we look at the perpetrators/victims, collecting as much detail about their lives as possible.

    Compare this to industrial process control. While you can’t totally ignore the fallout, you relatively quickly find and fix the systematic problems, but then you are usually still left with a process yield that is well below an acceptable level. The remaining problems are all over the map, each a small bar on the Pareto chart. If you blindly continue to work your way down the Pareto chart, it turns into an unproductive ‘whack-a-mole’ game.

    At this point, you start to look at the fallout as ‘outliers’. If some important aspect of your process is measurable, and a histogram of these measures looks an awful lot like a Gaussian distribution, the fallout is way, way out on the ‘tails’ of the distribution, and you realize that the fallout isn’t telling you much useful about your distribution.

    At this point, I am pretty clueless how to proceed with the analogy. If one could magically come up with a dozen measurable descriptors of humans that prove to have relevance to the murder rate, one could attempt to control (ok, influence, maybe?) the mean and standard deviation of the descriptor distributions over time, as applied to the vast majority of humans who are non-victim/perpetrator. Basically, it seems like you should have a whole lot more potential data to work with.

    When we concentrate our studies on the perpetrators/victim, any solutions we are likely to come up with will probably amount to an attempt to ‘chop the tails off’ of the distributions. Intuition (and experience) tells me that this is a poor substitute for understanding the underlying nature of your process.

  14. OK, I admit, I must be as dumb a a box of rocks, but I have a question. If there are more black killers than black victims, and more white killers than white victims, who are the extra black and white killers killing? Asians? Hispanics? Amerinds?

    Don’t get it.

    (Unless the figures are skewed by multiple convictions related to a single homicide)

  15. Interesting but the limitations of statistics must be recognized.

    And it must be recognized that culture is the determiner, not race, probably not gender. For example:
    – murder rate statistic in the US are skewed by a violent culture adopted by many young black-skinned males, who tend to kill each other.
    – in AB several years ago, the rate of violence against spouses was about equal between male and female (that was all violence, not only murder)
    – in SW BC there is a high murder rate among middle and high level drug dealers, who kill each other. (Reminiscent of the reputation of Hells Angels and the Mafia.)

    One factor can skew results for another. For example, one study a few years ago showed that crime and welfare rates among recent immigrants were slightly lower than average for the total population. But when the young black male phenomenon was removed from the data, rates were average.

    I’d be interested in shooting statistics by gender where gun control is least, expecting that many females would carry a pistol for protection against rapists. But it may be that rapist wannabes don’t try much in those jurisdictions (I know there is an inverse correlation between severity of gun control and total crime rate.) Females are more of a target and are the first protectors of children, but may be protected by males so have less need to kill. (Certainly they can be very nasty, but typically in more subtle ways.)

    (Persons interested in climate science statistical analysis can noodle about the legitimacy of removing the special case of young black males. I suggest it depends on what the analysis is being used for. Those interested in crime prevention will probably do the opposite analysis, looking at rates for different areas and cultures, so they can prioritize for greatest benefit.
    In climate analysis, removing the effect of volcanoes may be comparable to removing young black males from murder statistics, though it is questionable that

    “Culture” is a substantial determiner of both association and thinking. (Physical location is of course the primary determiner of racial distribution since most people don’t move far, and family connections of both distribution and culture.

    Humans are humans, but they often err in thinking and accept bad ideas (which are commonly taught in colleges). A small example is that a bunch of fools in Seattle erected a statue of Lenin, who ruined the life of huge numbers of people. Why would people who benefit so much from the individual freedom in a country like the US believe in the teachings of the most murderous ideology of the 20th century? Religion is another readily identifiable culture, with murderous results in Ireland, the remnants of Yugoslavia, and the Middle East-Persia-SW Asia area for example.

    Blaming race for ills is like blaming humans for climate variation – ignoring the actual causes.

  16. A Silver

    The murder rates start to even out just a few years after Fl (87) and then OR, PA, WV, GA (89) followed by ID, MS (90) and MT (91) adopted nondiscretionary concealed handgun laws. Between 94 and 96, 14 more states adopted those laws as well, which coincides with the period of rapid decrease in the homicide rates. Perhaps the threat of potential victims being able to turn the tables on their attacker should be considered as having an influence on the decline.

  17. SBT810

    What these data show is that blacks are killing far more whites than vice versa. Why isn’t this being discussed by the media? If the stats were reversed it would be considered a genocide.

    Also, men kill women at a higher rate than the reverse.

  18. Mark Talmont

    Just to clarify a current bone of contention in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, the “killers/killed” gaps in those black and white graphs equates to about a 2:1 ratio of black perps to white perps in inter-racial murders. Despite the bellowing of the “Black Lives Matter” activists the truth of the matter is exactly opposite what they say it is.

  19. Jon

    I really want to see black homicide rates 1940-1980 (especially vs white). Can anyone point me to this?

  20. Denise

    I’m sure many factors have been working together to obtain the decline started in the 90’s, but my personal feeling is that when welfare benefits were expanded, the incentive to crime went down for many. Why steal what the government will give you free?

  21. John Trujillo

    There is no such thing as anthropological global warming, so automatically rule that out.
    During the Reagan years the economy got better. During the end of the Clinton years, Republicans finally got control of states and enacted laws that allowed victims to protect themselves. The cities and communities that prevented victims from having rights, such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, etc. skew the statistics, which are pretty much gobbley-gook anyway, since you have to follow all of these formulas and patterns before allowing a 20% window for margins of errors. The FBI skew their own statistics by lumping Hispanics and Asians in with whites when they commit crimes, but putting them in their own categories when they are the victims. Bill Clinton squashed a study he requested in the 90’s because it showed that Blacks were killing Whites at a rate of 12 times higher than Whites were killing Blacks and four times more likely to kill based solely on race. Florida even went so far as to put up sunshine signs along it’s major highways to show tourists the safe places to stop and get gas. Same thinking that created a law to not prosecute all the crimes committed by young, black men so people would not be racist and see the truth. That led to Travon Martin walking around free to look in people’s windows on the night he was shot while trying to beat George Zimmerman to death. Zimmerman was just one bullet away from being a Hispanic statistic instead of the “White Hispanic” he was labeled with.

  22. cmarrou

    A commenter above noted the higher rates of “black-skinned males,” but it could also been attributed to “thin-skinned males.” Economist Thomas Sowell has written books about how blacks absorbed the culture of poor white people they worked with or for, including the expansion of the concept of “honor” and “disrespect” to include almost any social interaction, with the offended party left only with a choice between killing the offender or slinking off in shame. Such a culture certainly leads to a high rate of killing, with the state left to decide whether it is murder or not.

  23. Eric

    Interesting that the present black homicide rate is significantly higher than the ‘racist years’ from Jim Crow to the 1960s. A total of 3500 blacks were lynched during the 70 years of Jim Crow, roughly 50/year. That’s just a couple of weekends for today’s Detroit. Note that 1500 whites were lynched as well during Jim Crow.

    Southerners have lived with Blacks for a long time. Perhaps the zero tolerance for black criminality was not bigotry, but genuine race-realism. Maybe that’s what it will take to settle this.

    Murder rates are just a small part of the gigantic black violence problem. Almost all American inner cities have been no-go zones for whites since the 1960s. It’s not solved until whites are 100% comfortable walking through the blackest areas at midnight.

  24. James Polk Jr

    Eric, it beggars belief that you can write such a rabble-rousing comment! “Southerners have lived with Blacks for a long time”! You need to read up on your history, the past has undeniably shaped the present. Be my guest

    Fact, we enslaved Africans and brought them (around 11 million!) to America to work for NOTHING, we treated them sadistically and brutally, when we had no choice but to give them there freedom in 1865, it was but a short respite,
    after 248 years of terrorizing African Americans, into slaving for free (plus rape).

    After slavery was abolished, the Southern States were really incensed that the’d lost their free labor, so, how do they go about castigating downtrodden African Americans? You guessed it, they create racial segregation, which is (1867) “a system derived from the efforts of white Americans to keep African Americans in a subordinate status by denying them equal access to public facilities and ensuring that blacks lived apart from whites. During the era of slavery, most African Americans resided in the South, mainly in rural areas.”

    As a result, for another 97 years, African Americans were tyrannized in the Southern States, with 3,500 recorded lynchings, but I’d double that figure. So, let me do the math, 248+97=345 years of slavery and brutal oppression, and that you still can’t see (refuse to see) the inequality and racism (surreptitiousl) that African Americans still face today.

    By the way, you said, “genuine race-realism” I’m flabbergasted!
    Please forgive what I’m about to say, but you are living in a bubble of the good old days of “Jim Crow”.

    I will pray for you Eric

  25. Eric

    @ Mr. James Polk Jr.

    I’ll accept the label of rabble rouser, but that makes you the rabble. I do not live in a ‘bubble of the good old days of Jim Crow’. That’s because I despise slavery and mistreatment of people.

    You wrote “…we enslaved Africans…”

    No, ‘we’ did NOT enslave Africans. Speak for yourself. My ancestors came to the Americas in the late 1600s but were never slave owners and would have nothing to do with such a disgusting practice. Contrary to your assumptions, I have VERY good reasons for everything I believe. I’m not a shallow thinker.

    Here are some basic facts about American slavery:

    – Only 5% of Southerners owned slaves, which means that 95% were not slave owners, never enslaved anyone, and did not benefit from slavery.
    – Most African slaves were captured by Arabic or black slavers BEFORE being sold to Europeans.
    – Slavery in the Americas originated with the transnational globalist rich elites who wanted cheap labor for the sugar trade. They first shipped hundreds of thousands of Irish to the tropics but they wilted, hence the name ‘redneck’. Then they brought in blacks. This was to the great detriment of the common white population who saw their communities invaded by the disgusting practice of slavery.

    What I don’t understand is why liberals like you blame the common white man for something they had absolutely no control over? Why do you assume that the common white of 150 years ago was a greedy sadistic sex crazed slave owner? Perhaps they had a far better understanding of the issues than you do.

    Modern liberals try to establish a balance scale of atrocity. On one side they claim white society is a great villain because “…we enslaved Africans and brought them (around 11 million!) to America to work for NOTHING, we treated them sadistically and brutally…”

    Yes, that’s not nice. But they never present the other side of the scale. Sub-Saharan Africa has always been a brutal slave society. Estimates are that over 80% of Sub-Saharan Africans during the 1700/1800s were enslaved to other Africans. Cannibalism was widespread. Testimonials of African travelers from that era contain many references to human meat markets. Atrocities of the worst kind were commonplace. Even now you can read about albinos killed for their body parts. Remember Rwanda and the hatchets? So those 11 million were already slaves in Africa, and faced a desperate existence before being sold to Europeans.

    You wrote “…for another 97 years, African Americans were tyrannized in the Southern States, with 3,500 recorded lynchings, but I’d double that figure.”

    How convenient to ignore the almost total destruction of the South during the Civil War. Recent estimates of the overall death toll top 800,000. The Reconstruction Acts systematically stripped southern men of the ability to vote or hold public office, and put blacks in offices against the public will. Levels of resentment must have been beyond astronomical.

    Good luck doubling the 3500 figure. It’s the best estimate from the historical community. You’re not comfortable because it reveals that whites were lynched at rates not much less than blacks. It also reveals that modern blacks kill more of their own every couple of years than Jim Crow killed in 75 years. Blacks certainly assault and wound far more blacks than Jim Crow ever did, which weakens your point about Jim Crow tyrannizing blacks.

    Here’s a secret: Blacks commit violence against whites at far higher rates than the reverse. I suggest that the corrosive black influence on Detroit and other great American cities far outweighs the inhumanities of Jim Crow. I also suggest that the segregation of Jim Crow was a natural response to living with blacks. Whites do not want to associate with blacks.

    Please read the latest DOJ figures on Black-on-White violence. They are highly disturbing, to say the least:

    “First, we find that during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. This figure is consistent with reports from 2008, the last year DOJ released similar statistics.”

    So, let’s do some numbers. Blacks commit an annual average of 461,000 more violent crimes against whites than whites commit against blacks (560,600-99,403) = 461,197 per year. Contrast that with the difference in blacks/whites killed during Jim Crow, i.e., (3500-1500 lynchings)/75 years = 26 more blacks per year than whites. Are 26 lynchings worse than 461,000 violent crimes? That’s what you’re claiming. Quite likely that 461,000 crimes includes homicides.

    I refer you to the DOJ report from 2008. Please look at table 43, where you can see with your very own eyes evidence of the 19,000 black-on-white sexual assaults and the less than ten white-on-black sexual assaults.

    I’m very concerned about Christians who, in a moment of eyeball-mote-beam confusion, blithely tar others with the ‘racist’ label. The human races are distinctly different. Recognition of that fact does not make somebody a racist. It merely confirms their innate honesty and clarity of vision.

    Frankly, I regard those who misguide others in these matters as sinners.

    You offered to pray for me. I thank you. In return I present you with John 9:39 and John 15:22. You are blind, but you claim you see. Therefore your sin remains.

    “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

    “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” John 15:22

  26. Melissa

    The cultural marxism infecting our society causes too many people to refute what facts are trying to tell them. It’s our generations version of The Emperor Has No Clothes. All the statistics you cite are true, but the left wing media will not speak them. How many people know that white males are shot to death by police at three times the rate as black males, yet all we hear from the MSM/Democrat media is their cheerleading of BLM? It sickens and infuriates me and it has to stop.

  27. rico

    interesting that the title says 1950-2010 but when race is involved it starts with 1980 that coincides with Cocaine epidemic. Why not show the 1950-1980 rates by race? Things that make you go hmmmm!!

  28. Briggs


    Exactly. Ask the FBI why they don’t publish those statistics for use.

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