Concentrate Where the Murders Are Concentrated

It is almost a rule of life that politicizing a social issue makes the underlying realities harder to see. Here is a different approach:

Lott’s research, which used 2020 homicide data, examined the concentration of homicides in particular areas to see whether America’s increasing homicide problem is national or local. He let that data tell its story.

First, he focused on county-level data rather than national data. Some of the dramatic results he found:

  • The worst five counties (Cook, Los Angeles, Harris, Philadelphia, and New York) accounted for about 15 percent of homicides.
  • The worst 1 percent of counties (31), with 21 percent of the US population, accounted for 42 percent of the homicides.
  • The worst 2 percent of counties (62), with 31 percent of the population, accounted for 56 percent of the homicides.
  • The worst 5 percent of counties (155), with 47 percent of the population, accounted for 73 percent of the homicides.
  • In contrast, over half of US counties (52 percent) had zero homicides in 2020, and roughly one-sixth of the counties (16 percent) had only one.

Continuing his investigation, Lott looked at even finer-scale zip code data for Los Angeles County. He found that the worst 10 percent of zip codes in the county accounted for 41 percent of the homicides, and the worst 20 percent accounted for a total of 67 percent of the homicides.

From such data, Lott concluded that: “Murder isn’t a nationwide problem.” Instead, “It’s a problem in a small set of urban areas, and even in those counties murders are concentrated in small areas inside them…”

It would be interesting to know if high murder concentrations tend to occur in the same locations over time. I think that knowing this would be prerequisite to establishing causes.

16 thoughts on “Concentrate Where the Murders Are Concentrated

  1. Don’t make the mistake of assuming politicians want to solve the problem. Their goal is to disarm citizens, and the murder problem is just a talking point in that process.

    In a country of 320million, fewer than 10,000 will commit murder in any given year, identifying that small number is more effective than making everyone else less able to defend themselves.


    1. UK (England, Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland) have about 67 million. We have about 330 million, or right about 5 times the population.

      We had 10,000 homicides compared to 665. So multiply by 5 and a comparable homicide number in UK would be about 3300. And most were not by guns.

      I would not brag about our murders. They are high by industrial nation standards. Very high, really.

      Your solution is to pump more firearms into the mix because that is going to make it so much safer.

      UK has drug problems, gangs, ethnic minorities, hooligans so violent they are banned in soccer match’s abroad.

      Population density in much higher in UK.

      Somehow, more guns seems a bit ridiculous. Or even our reverence for S&W which is beyond worship.

      I can’t say as I feel safer know we have 440 million firearms with little or no accountability.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why do you think the numbers you recite are meaningful?

        The source story for the post points out that murders in the U.S. occur in concentrations. We are a long way from being able to say why they occur at all.


        1. They are very meaningful. What makes LA County worse than London? That’s my point.

          Both have mostly European roots with recent influxes of great ethnic diversity. Both have poverty. Both are densely populated.

          The numbers add up to a violent US that kills more of us per capita.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. RE: “What makes LA County worse than London?”

            I don’t know, and neither do you. That’s my point.


      2. Your chances of being killed with a firearm, if you are part of a drug gang, are substantially less than your chances of being killed by a texting driver.

        The violence you are concerned about is incredibly concentrated in a very small part of the population.


          1. We have a subculture of young men who place little value on their own lives and none on the lives of others. They fully expect to either die violently or in prison, so they might as well do as much drugs as they can get before that happens.

            We can debate how that nihilism infected that subculture, but I don’t think you can claim it does not exist or that it is so pervasive anywhere else in the world.


          2. Other countries have the same issues, but with a lot fewer gun deaths. And, I might add, a lot fewer police killings of civilians.

            The last part is probably related to the first. US police kill more civilians because of the likelihood that many folks are armed. In my opinion.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I disagree.

            I do not think that any other country of any size has such a large number of young men mired in nihilism. I think that the increase in the number of single parent, matriarchal households enabled by our welfare system has made young men see themselves as interchaeable and expendable.


          4. Here is a site that has data on family sizes, whether single parent or not and other familial tidbits.


            At first glance, the title supports your thesis. But among the top contenders, like UK, the differences are small.

            Generally, European countries have much better child care, welfare (dole) and healthcare accessibility.

            We don’t do that. So low income single parents, particularly in states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, etc., are left hanging.

            (Mississippi was shameless in stealing millions of federal dollars from low income recipients and shoveling millions to the wealthy.)

            I could not find if low income families are the bulk of single parents. There are still lots of middle and upper class household that are single parent.

            So knowing the numbers of low income families that are single parent would certainly be a big factor.

            So, according to your argument, other countries that have troubled youths, welfare, single parents, drug gangs, are able to better serve their citizens than we do for some reason and curb nihilism.

            Or, in my opinion, it is the proliferation of guns that turn fist or knife fights into war zones. It is really the biggest difference in societal norms among industrial nations.

            Now, the war on drugs is a spectacular failure that surgically targeted Black Americans with enforcement and hugely disparate prosecution and sentencing. You blame our pitiful welfare system for nihilism, but I would say it is the a justice system that discards hope for many in return for being tough on crime. Our for-profit prisons are cesspools for developing a nihilistic person. And they are run by the inmates in many places because funding is pitiful.

            So to relieve this problem I suggest we increase spending a lot on our justice system and prisons. We make childcare and healthcare much more accessible and affordable (including mental health, BTW) and fund education more equitably than property taxes.

            And start getting a handle on the ridiculous, deadly and unnecessary proliferation of powerful firearms. This is killing us more efficiently than all our wars combined.

            We had a serious gang problem in post WW2 New York. Single parent households during the war effort was a big factor. The difference then was guns. Few, if any, were available so gang wars were settled with baseball bats, car aerials, sharpened belt buckles, knives and the rare zip gun, 22 cal. But then Virginia decided it would be lovely to be the main arms supplier for NE gangs. Still, gun laws in NY were effective and even today, NYC as fewer gun homicides than most other areas.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. We don’t need better welfare, we need lifetime limits on it.

            Comparing us to other cultures and countries isn’t helpful. US Welfare has so thoroughly destroyed poor families that many young men are raised by mothers who are daughters of daughters of women none of whom has ever had a husband, just a series of abusive boyfriends.

            The lesson there is that men are interchangeable and expendable, and those young men, with some heroic exeptions, live as such.


          6. That kind of welfare is gone. I think Clinton took care of that 3 decades ago.

            What we don’t have is affordable healthcare, child care and top notch education. That permits single parents to work, which most would love to do. And not have to choose between employment and childcare, or how to pay for medicines or doctors if low income jobs have no benefits.

            We have this Superman/woman myth the glorifies the few who break from poverty and become successful. The fact is, most don’t. We have a low upward mobility rate compared to many other industrialized nations.

            Reasons abound, but making it hard to stay healthy, get a good education and work while raising a family with children (single parent or not) are solid problems.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. We thought Clinton had surrendered to Gingrich and gotten rid of it, but it crept back in as a mixture of disability and “training programs” and it is just as bad now as ever.


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