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Culture War Roundup for the week of December 19, 2022

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Groups that once had high violent crime rates but don't anymore

There are big ethnic differences in violent crime rates in the modern USA.

The race differences in homicide go beyond black-white even though that gets most of the airtime, with hispanics having a homicide rate about double that of whites, American Indians about 4 times that of whites, and Asians about half that of white.

Left-wing explanation for high crime/homicide rates in minority communities tends to be exogenous factors, e.g racism, discrimination, legacy of segregation, slavery, redlining, poverty. Obviously the equation is not as simple as poverty=homicide since if you equalize poverty rates there is still a lot of difference in homicide rates between various ethnic groups.

Right-wing explanations tend to be endogenous factors. The more mainstream normie-con explanation is ‘culture,’ i.e “black people have a culture that encourages violent resolution of disputes, etc.” but if that culture was changed, homicide rates would fall similarly. The further right explanation is biological, HBD, i.e certain groups have a genetic predisposition towards violence.

While people mostly talk about black vs white homicide rates, American Indians and hispanics also have higher homicide rates than white Americans, and asians have lower. In Canada, aboriginal Canadians are heavily overrepresented among homicide suspects. Ditto for Aboriginals in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, and Caucasians in Russia. Also various immigrant groups in western Europe, from Africa, the mid-east, and Eastern Europe, tend to have higher than average homicide rates.

I recently became interested in the question of ethnic groups that have exhibited very high homicide rates in the past but no longer do. It seems obviously relevant to the question of varying homicide rates among different ethnic groups today. If X group had high homicide rates in the past but now doesn’t, that experience could possibly shed light on solutions for the high homicide rates in some groups too, though obviously there will be plenty of other factors at work and you cannot necessarily do a 1 to 1 comparison between two or more ethnic groups separated widely by time and space and characteristics.

I mostly looked at historical crime rates of various European immigrant groups to the US, because that data is comparatively easy to find.

The Irish, for example. In New York City in the 1860s, Irishmen had a homicide rate of about 37.5 per 100k, many times higher than the non-Irish white male rate, and a little higher than the contemporary black male rate of 32 per 100k. German immigrants for comparison had a homicide rate of about 15 per 100k. (Source for these numbers is Murder in New York City by Eric Monkkonen). The pattern was the same in other American cities. For example, in Philadelphia between 1860 and 1873, the Irish homicide rate was 4.7 per 100,000, a significant overrepresentation, compared to 2.9 for the city as a whole and lower for native-born whites in particular.

This was to some extent an international phenomenon. In London in the early 19th century, twenty percent of those charged with “riot, affray, assault, murder, and rape” were Irish, though they made up only 2 percent of the city’s population (source is Ethnicity, Prejudice, and Justice: The Treatment of the Irish at the Old Bailey, 1750-1825 by Peter King).

A similar group is the Italians. In early 20th century Chicago, Italians committed homicide at many times the city average, peaking at more than 50 per 100k around 1910, thirty times the rate of Swedish immigrants (source is First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt by J.S Adler). Likewise, in Philadelphia between 1899 and 1928, nearly 20 percent of those convicted for murder were born in Italy, while the Italian proportion of the city as a whole did not rise above 5 percent (source is Immigration and Crime in Early Twentieth Century America by Caroline Moehling and Anne Morrison Piehl).

Even the Chinese, which are considered a ‘model minority’ today had much higher homicide rates in the 19th and early twentieth century. In Seattle between 1905 and 1910, Chinese had a homicide rate of about 60 per 100k, compared to a black rate of about 35 per 100k and a white that was much lower. This is after factoring out gang-killings in which case the Chinese rate is many times higher. (Source is Homicide in Seattle’s Chinatown, 1900-1940: Evaluating the Influence of Social Organizations by Brian Paciotti). The same was true in other western cities with large Chinese populations like San Francisco. Even accounting for the very lopsided sex ratio of early Chinese immigrants the discrepancy remains, so that in San Francisco in the 1920s the homicide rate for Chinese men was 24.1 per 100k compared to 9.2 per 100k for white men.

It was harder to find examples outside the United States, but Koreans in Japan are possibly an interesting one. Im sure there is much more information in Japanese, but I have been able to find some that suggests that historically, Koreans had much higher crime rates than native Japanese, up to 13.9 times higher in 1950 (source is Bringing class back in: the changing basis of inequality and the Korean minority in Japan by Bumsoo Kim). Apparently in 1932 the Imperial Japanese government conducted a study on “Korean criminality” which concluded that Koreans had a propensity for gambling and violent crime. (Source is here: According to wikipedia, in the 1990s Koreans comprised 10% of Yakuza members despite comprising only about 0.5% of the population total. I don’t know what Korean crime rates relevant to Japanese crime rates look like nowadays, or if that information is available anywhere in English. However, Koreans have converged with Japanese on many other metrics such as income and years of education, so I would be surprised if crime rates were still as high.

It seems clear that these groups do not have homicide rates nearly as high as they once did. I doubt it would be possible to get any kind of arrest, conviction, or incarceration data on Italian or Irish Americans in the present day US, as I doubt anyone is recording it. That said, if Irish and Italians and their descendants were still killing/dying at anywhere the rate they once were it’d be pretty obvious. I also don’t think Irish or Irish-descended are overrepresented in English violent crime by a fact of ten as they once were, though I can’t find present-day data. Asians in the modern day US of course have a very low homicide rate.

One answer would be that, since these are immigrant groups, the violent people went home (since returning to the old country was very common). But this seems obviously false, since today Ireland, China, and Italy both have very low violent crime rates. So it seems that to a large extent, something must have changed within these ethnic groups themselves. 100 years is too short for genetic change on that scale, so whatever caused the behavioral change must have been primarily environmental.

What exactly those environmental changes were I don’t know. My guess would be that, as these groups assimilated culturally and socially they felt they had a greater stake in things and violent crime fell accordingly, but this is conveniently nebulous and hard to measure. I would say these examples are a reason for optimism since they suggest that a community is not 'doomed' to high violent crime rates forever, though I don't think there are any immediately obvious policy implications that suggest themselves.

This is a great angle, thanks for writing it up!

I would argue more or less the "culture" position, but within that are a lot of nested issues that contribute to the issue.

Social and linguistic distinctiveness, distrust of authority/law enforcement, "honor" codes of male behavior, early and frequent exposure to violence etc.

Poverty can be a stressor, but the example of places like Kiryas Joel puts the lie to any direct correlation.

Genetics are probably a small role, but mediated by other things like impulsiveness/time horizon. Certainly not enough to produce the massive effects we currently see.

Within a culture of violence, violence is the game-theoretical maximum way of getting what you want. It has a logic all its own, and once you're in that cycle, it is self-perpetuating.

I'd really imagine it's just that much of crime is directly or indirectly connected to organized crime and the culture created by the prominence of organized crime in a community, and organized crime, by its nature (ie. its main point is usually the provision of contraband goods or services, often by smuggling e.g. drugs or bringing in prostitutes from some other country), tends to be one field of business where recent immigrants arriving in large-scale, tight-knit communities from poorer and less-well put together countries than the new host country tend to have a leg up, compared to more established groups.

This may have been the case for the Chinese, where a lot of the murders were tong related or otherwise financially motivated, but with the Italians and Irish the great majority were things like drunken fighting, disputes over women, avenging personal slights, etc. I don't know if the presence or absence of organized crime would significantly impact things like that.

I dunno? I'd imagine that having one's neighborhood's culture be defined and steered by the presence of organized crime would increase the general tendency to settle disputes with extralegal violence, and I'd even imagine some gang crime might be reported to the police as disputes over women, personal slights etc. so as to have less chance of affecting the organization.

Any idea why Irish homicides rates were almost 10x in NYC compared with those of Philly?

NYC homicide rates are specifically for men, Philly rates are for the whole ethnic group. NY is still higher but it's not as extreme.

I do want to register as someone who believes in HBD I don't necessarily think that violent crime is directly in the genes. It can be true that HBD is a component of what causes some to be in poverty and a hopeless low trust and low time preference environment and this leads to crime rather than it being something inherent in the genes.

MAOA 2R allele (which is a lot worse than originally found 3R low activity allele).

White people in x000BC committed a lot of what we'd now call 'violent crime'. Black violent crime seems very culturally contingent (although easily related to IQ in that contingency) - take even a particularly dumb black person and put them in japan as a baby and I don't think you'd get anywhere near american crime rate.

Not convinced 'time preference' is a real thing separate from intelligence, survival as a hunter-gatherer requires a lot of long-term planning, and 'africa was nicer for survival than europe' isn't really true (and even if it was, africa is a big place with lots of variation, there would be niches that were hard to survive in).

Not convinced 'time preference' is a real thing separate from intelligence

Theres MAOA 2R allele which increases chance to be arrested for doing crime significantly yet no effect on intelligence.

I believe candidate gene studies like that didn't replicate, and individual alleles with that large of an effect aren't really a thing.

This doesn't exclude black people having a bunch of different alleles with small individual effects that add up to something big, but that particular allele isn't it.

Most "candidate genes" didn't replicate, but MAOA did. There was also recently replication from Russia (albeit not for 2R, which they got only one individual)

The effect of 2R (in males) is so big that they even compare 2R vs all other, i.e. older-known "bad" 3R allele becomes "good" in this comparison.

Effect of low activity MAOA replicates in controlled expirements on mice very well. Main cause you don't hear about it is because of obscurantists.

having a bunch of different alleles with small individual effects that add up to something big

sure there's other alleles which effects add, my point is separation of time preference from intelligence is already established, and burden of proof on you.

and 'africa was nicer for survival than europe' isn't really true

Now many species of Primates inhabit Africa, and how many inhabit Europe?

there would be niches that were hard to survive in).

Like which ones?

a hopeless low trust and low time preference environment

It would be high time preference. The component that is inherent in genes is what makes it HBD.

It would be high time preference.

You are of course correct, good catch.

The component that is inherent in genes is what makes it HBD.

My point is the component inherent to genes may just be lower IQ colliding with social factors.

Outside Hajnal European groups having sky-high murder rates in the late 19th century, which are now fairly similar to the white average, is a pretty good argument in favor of the culture hypothesis because Irish and Italian Americans are now indistinguishable from other white Americans except for their grandma’s recipes, but at the time they were quite different culturally.

German immigrants for comparison had a homicide rate of about 15 per 100k.

Of note, this is about 3 times the homicide rate of the whole US today. Homicide rates have dropped precipitously across groups, which is also important to keep in mind when discussing solutions. For example, pointing to the Irish provides evidence that poverty and discrimination are a factor; they're clearly not that genetically different from other Europeans, but being mostly Catholic, were subject to colonization by the English and discrimination in the US. The data point about Koreans in Japan is also very interesting; I'm reasonably confident that Korea's murder rate is not 14 times higher than Japan's. So this likely reflects either selection bias in who ended up in Japan, or some form of discrimination (or some other theories: An effect of finding yourself in a very different society than the one you're used to, a lack of good institutions, etc.)

Homicide rates have dropped a lot in the last two centuries or so, at least in part because of greatly improving medical care. That's why I think proportions are more important that absolute numbers.

The data point about Koreans in Japan is also very interesting; I'm reasonably confident that Korea's murder rate is not 14 times higher than Japan's.

That's for crime in general, not homicide; unfortunately I couldn't find data on Korean immigrant vs Japanese homicide in particular, though another source I posted also stated that they were overrepresented in "violent crime" (unfortunately without giving a proportion, and citing a Japanese-language source).

Homicide rates have dropped a lot in the last two centuries or so, at least in part because of greatly improving medical care

Yes, but the size of this effect is very important. The white homicide rate in the US is somewhere around 2.5-3 per 100K, 5-6 times lower than the 15 per 100K quoted for Germans above.

That's for crime in general, not homicide

Good point, but I would assume Korea's general crime rate is also not 14 times that of Japan either (this source claims it's 26 vs 22, about 18% higher).

The white homicide rate in the US is somewhere around 2.5-3 per 100K

In 2019, the homicide victimization rate for non-Hispanic whites was 2.6. With accounting for asymmetric interracial homicide, the rate of offending was probably under 2.5 per 100k.

Source: CDC, Deaths: Final Data for 2019, table 9. 2020 data should be out by now, but I haven't been able to find it.

Edit: According to the first reference here, Deaths: Final Data for 2020 is still "forthcoming" as of this month. I guess they're busy with COVID stuff?

I think the report is actually available, at or The citation just hasn't been updated.

That's a summary report. The full report is like a hundred pages with statistics for over a hundred different causes of death broken down by multiple demographic stats. Here's the report for 2019:

Do you have the Japanese source handy? I can take a peek if you’d like.

The cite is "Shihō Chōsaka, Shihō Kenkyū 17, Hōkokushū (Judicial Research: No. 17, Collection of Reports), Tokyo: Shihōshō (Mar. 1933), 434 (National Diet Library, Call Number: AZ-771-H26)." I don't know if this would be digitized anywhere.

I took a look - as far as I can tell, it’s available only via their intranet, and I’d have to essentially buy a copy from the national diet library and have it delivered. From what I can see from the table of contents, the entire thing is about Korean-Japanese criminality and its purported reasons (and a hundred something pages on background on Koreans living in Japan at the time), all 500+ pages of it.

Oh well!

With a continuous immigration stream there's always population effects. The overall hispanic crime rate has dropped due to low-crime Mexican immigration outpacing the high-crime Puerto-ricans, for example, which becomes very clear if you look at hispanic incarceration by region. African immigration is also lowering the black crime rate, but not nearly enough to offset all the other factors!

It would be interesting to see the crime rates of the descendants of 19th century immigrant "Paddy O'Drunkenlout" vs 20th century immigrants like "Ryan McInvestmentbanker"

This reminds me of my favorite crime-related statistic of all time, which is that white Alabamians are four times as likely to be incarcerated as white Minnesotans. The black incarceration rate for the two states is fairly close. source I guess there's something to "Minnesota nice" after all.

It could be evidence for the theory that the South has a persistent culture of violence and lawlessness. Or that Alabama is a lot poorer than Minnesota. Or both (I favor this theory).

Are those statistics corrected for income? (It's plausible that rich whites are disproportionately common compared to rich blacks and skew the results more.) Is it also corrected for rural/urban?

The dissolution of the mafia and the end of prohibition could explain at least part of this decline for Italian Americans . The New Deal helped to bring a lot of Italian Americans into the fold. FDR was in many respects the first Catholic president despite being Protestant. He made major inroads with Catholics that past presidents hadn't.

Possibly in part, but apparently (according to J.S Adler's book) the great majority of Italian murders weren't gang hits/organized crime, but things like drunken brawls and personal feuds.