Many comparisons have been made between the homicide rates of the United States and various European countries. They have been made between members of the G-8, or among “developed” or “advanced” countries, or “economically developed” countries, though all of these comparisons suffer from various unstated assumptions, typically that economic development is a prime predictor of homicide rates., which clearly is not correct. The above chart was created from UNODC data . . .
It’s a comparison of homicide rates among new world countries where the dominant or official language is English. This creates an interesting set of common characteristics. All of these countries were inhabited only by pre-Columbian immigrants a little more than 500 years ago. All of them were colonized by Europeans, Africans (as a result of the slave trade, in some form or another), and, to a much lesser extent, Asians. So the current populations are now a significant mix of people descended from European, pre-Columbian, African, and Asian cultures. The pre-Columbian cultures were mostly destroyed and displaced over the last 500 years and their languages have been mostly displaced by English. I was unable to find UNODC data for the Falkland Islands.
Interestingly, the greatest survival of pre-Columbian languages and cultures in these countries exists in Canada and the United States.
The chart reveals the enormous problems with international comparisons of crime and homicide rates. Differences in culture, data collection, and definitions make comparisons very difficult, perhaps to the point of meaninglessness. Culture is far more important than method or economic condition.
Consider one aspect of the law that is often linked to homicide rates — firearm regulation. The U.S. Virgin Islands is listed separately from the United States because it is counted separately in the UNODC data. Perhaps that’s because the territory was only purchased by the United States in 1917. The USVI and Belize are tied for the highest homicide rates of the countries listed. Both entities have extremely restrictive laws regulating the possession and carry of firearms.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Canada and the United States. The firearm laws in Canada are much less restrictive than those in the U.S. Virgin Islands or Belize. The firearm laws in the United States are, of course, the least restrictive of the group. The comparison supports what other researchers have found — if firearms regulation has any effect on the overall homicide rate, it is not easily discerned from international comparisons.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.