February 07, 2003
Update On Homicide Rates

In mid-December, 'Jane Galt' of Assymetrical Information posted this brief comment:

Hmmm. . .

TalkLeft links to a study arguing that the murder rate has fallen because of better access to medical care. It's one of those unobvious intuitions that make you smack yourself in the head and go "Duh!"

On the other hand, I doubt it accounts for all the variance, since other violent crime has also dropped. But I would find it interesting to know whether Britain's smaller size accounts for the difference in their crime rates, since per capita they outstrip us in everything but murder, which is also the only crime judged on the health outcome. If their victims are closer to hospitals, and thus don't die en route, that might account for it.

Two weeks later, I posted some vague but interesting information along the same lines. I haven't been able to find the TalkLeft article to which she refers, but here's something related. In the latest (February) New Criterion, Theodore Dalrymple's article "The anatomy of murder" (23-29, not on-line) includes this remark (23-24):

The murder rate has doubled since 1960, and an article in a recent issue of the learned journal Homicide Studies -- how long can it be before homicide is a university subject, study of which leads to a D. Hom.? -- suggested that, had it not been for improvements in surgical technique since 1960, the murder rate would be five times higher than it is, that is to say, ten times higher than it was in 1960: a conclusive proof, if any were needed, that technical and moral progress do not necessarily go hand in hand.

I wish he had given a precise reference. Since he's an Englishman writing in an American journal, I also wonder whether he means that the murder rate has doubled in the U.S. or the U.K. or both.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 07, 2003 11:38 PM

Some time recently (past 3-4 months) there was a discussion of the relative murder rates in Baltimore and Washington. The conclusion was that people in both cities are still trying to kill each other at the same rates, but the emergency medical care in Baltimore is so much better that the murder rate is significantly lower. I don't have a reference but Iain Murray might have discussed this.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) on February 8, 2003 08:12 AM

Actually, it was me, in the "vague but interesting" post mentioned above, about an article I saw something like 10 years in (probably) the Washington Post. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down the article.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on February 8, 2003 08:28 AM

Somebody has displayed a graph recently that showed the Baltimore and DC murder rates over a number of years (20?). There was a large step down over a few years for the Baltimore graph, after which it continued to increase at the same slope, but much lower than the DC graph. The "sudden" step down probably corresponded to the 'shock trauma' system being implemented at U. Md. Hospital. I did try searching Iain Murray's archives, but didn't find anything specific to DC and Baltimore.

Posted by: steevil on February 8, 2003 09:09 AM

Again, that was me. Follow the link!

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on February 8, 2003 09:32 AM

A little late, but I believe this was the article Jane Galt/Talkleft was referencing, from the NY Times magazine in mid-Dec.


Posted by: anonymous on February 8, 2003 01:30 PM