Since the death of Jordan Neely on the New York subway, there has been much discussion of interracial violent crime on Twitter. Conservatives have been pointing out (correctly) that blacks commit a disproportionate amount, while leftists have been trying to argue (erroneously) that they don’t.
The latest attempt to show that blacks don’t commit a disproportionate amount of interracial violent crime was by a guy named Judd Legum, whom I’d never heard of before. Here I’ll explain exactly why he’s wrong.
Note that Legum has a Substack newsletter with 258,000 subscribers, of which more than 10,000 are paying subscribers. This equates to a minimum annual income from Substack of around $600,000 (minus fees). So this guy is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, despite the fact that he’s making completely erroneous claims about an important subject. What’s more, his newsletter previously won an award for “online journalism”.
Legum made several erroneous claims in his recent article but I want to focus on this one: “when you normalize the data for population, the rate of “Black on White” crime is similar to the rate of “White on Black” crime”. To support the claim, he refers to a table in a report by the US Department of Justice – which is reproduced below.
As Legum notes, “The data shows that 15.3% of crimes against whites are committed by Black people. And 10.6% of crimes against Black people are committed by whites.” Since 15.3% is not that much greater than 10.6%, he’s claiming that blacks and whites commit a “similar” amount of interracial violent crime.
Here’s what’s actually going on.
3,581,360 is the total number of violent incidents with a white victim. Of these, 15.3% had a black perpetrator. This means the total number of violent incidents committed by blacks against whites is 3,581,360 × 0.153 = 547,948.
563,940 is the total number of violent incidents with a black victim. Of these, 10.6% had a white perpetrator. This means the total number of violent incidents committed by whites against blacks is 563,940 × 0.106 = 59,778.
Dividing 547,948 by 59,778 gives us 9.2. Which means the total number of violent incidents committed by blacks against whites is 9 times greater than the total number of violent incidents committed by whites against blacks.
If we compare blacks and Asians, we get an even bigger disparity. In fact, the total number of violent incidents committed by blacks against Asians is 89 times greater than the total number of violent incidents committed by Asians against blacks.
These massive ratios have nothing to do with the population sizes of different groups. Although there are more whites than blacks in the US, there are more blacks than Asians. Yet both whites and Asians commit many fewer violent incidents against blacks than blacks commit against them.
Adjusting for population size by calculating “rates”, as some conservatives have been doing, is actually wrong in this context. To see why, consider the following example – which I borrowed from the Twitter user Lao Yang.
First, let’s check that both populations have the same overall crime rate.
The total number of crimes committed by members of population A is 9,801 + 99 = 9,900. (9,801 crimes were committed against other members of population A and 99 were committed against members of population B). Therefore, population A’s crime rate is 9,900/990,000 × 100 = 1 per 100.
The total number of crimes committed by members of population B is 99 + 1 = 100. (99 crimes were committed against members of population A and 1 was committed against another member of population B). Therefore, population B’s crime rate is 100/10,000 × 100 = 1 per 100.
So both populations have the same overall crime rate. And each committed the same number of crimes against the other. Why, then, is it wrong to calculate “rates” of interracial crime?
Well, we can calculate both offending rates and victimisation rates. Population A’s offending rate is 99/990,000 × 100 = 0.01 per 100. And population B’s offending rate is 99/10,000 × 100 = 0.99 per 100. So population B’s offending rate is 99 times higher.
Now let’s do victimisation rates, which are exactly the same. Population A’s is 99/990,000 × 100 = 0.01 per 100. And population B’s is 99/10,000 × 100 = 0.99 per 100. So population B’s victimisation rate is also 99 times higher.
Population B commits crime against population A 99 times more often than population A commits crime against population B. Yet population B is victimised by population A 99 times more often than population A is victimised by population B? This can’t be right.
The reason is that interracial crimes involve encounters. And the number of times blacks encounter whites has to be equal to the number of times whites encounter blacks. Therefore, interracial crime numbers do not need to be adjusted for population. (You could adjust them for the combined population of both groups, but that would be pointless.)
In summary: comparing interracial crime across groups is relatively simple. You just divide, say, the total number of crimes committed by blacks against whites by the total number of crimes committed by whites against blacks. Doing so confirms that blacks commit a disproportionate amount. Age can explain part of the disparity between blacks and whites, and an even smaller part of the disparity between blacks and Asians.
Image: Chris Yarzab, LAPD officers at the Staples center, 2010
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As always Noah you don’t need too much effort to discredit midwit maths but it’s worth doing every time. Nice work if you can get it rolling in the subscribers to your virtue signalling so called analytics. I never understand why these people make such errors when there are quite a few people who can correct their half-baked homework😂
Oh, I just saw this via Richard Hanania re-tweeting an epic thread by a guy named Marck Owen Jones that really should be read....
I have now seen several big twitter threads from people pissed off that Elon Musk promoted some data about crime....
Noah, you may want to comment on the tweet that Hanania links to....