Supplemental: Concerning homicides in Chi-raq!


Where does narrative come from:
Just this once, we'll admit it! We were surprised by a factoid we heard this week. (We can't remember where.)

We heard that Chicago had fewer homicides last year than in any year since the 1960s.

Don't get us wrong! We knew that homicides were down in Chicago as compared to the city's worst old years. But we were surprised when we looked up the numbers dating to 1965.

In 2014, there were 432 homicides in Chicago. But according to the leading authority, that was the lowest number since 1965:
Homicides in Chicago, selected years
1965: 396
1966: 512
1975: 818
1976: 814
1985: 666
1986: 744
1995: 828
1996: 796
2005: 451
2006: 471
2011: 435
2012: 516
2013: 441
2014: 432
Just to be clear, these are homicides, not homicides by shooting. Also, we're not masking any secret trends by the years we've selected. To review every year since 1965, you can just click here.

Don't get us wrong! Given what is being counted, 432 is a large number. Still, the long list of numbers at that link suggest two basic points:

It's intriguing to ponder the way journalistic frameworks get established. Also, it's easy to see why there were demands for tougher policing back in the 1990s.

When journalists look at all those numbers, why do they create a "Murder City USA" framework for Chicago? Has Spike Lee been paying them off?

By way of contrast, why do we hear so little about the fact that the number has been cut by more than half since the most homicidal years?

We can't answer those questions. That said, these years were most homicidal:
Homicides in Chicago, 1991-1994
1991: 928
1992: 943
1993: 855
1994: 931
According to our statisticians, 432 is a much smaller number than any of those. You almost never see this framework applied to events in Chicago.

432 is a lot. It's also way fewer than 943.

Each fact is part of this basic story. For whatever reason, we pretty much hear only one.



    Off topic but I want to know what you think of this debacle Bob. I'm just flabbergasted.

    1. Just wondering why you are flabbergasted. Isis has called for strikes in America and have called for people inside their countries to do them just as this couple did. American press doesn't follow isis as closely as European press. It's funny how poorly informed US is about this and a lot of other things. More attacks and blood are coming and isis is a huge, huge deal.

    2. @5:32

      " musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse"

      What should anyone think about it? Somerby doesn't write a news blog but it is safe to assume he is as upset by such events as anyone else.

    3. @ 2:28 - Flabbergasted at the media stampeding into the humble abode of mass murderers. That it was allowed to happen and that MSNBC showed Social Security Cards live on cable TV. I'm interested in Bob's opinion on the media debacle, not the attack itself.

  2. It's not just Chicago. The murder rate has dropped in half nationwide. You can see a chart if you scroll down at

    You don't hear about this wonderful success, because the media are mostly liberals who want an excuse to take people's guns away. Years ago, John Lott wrote a controversial book called "More Guns Less Crime". A lot of liberals disputed his results. Yet, the results support Lott. Since 1975, the number of guns has grown dramatically while murder and other violent crimes shrank dramatically.

    1. You continue your tribal losing streak, troll:

      Wapo, 2014 -
      One of the major critiques of the study came from the National Research Council, which in 2004 extended the data through the year 2000 and ultimately concluded that "with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates." Or in other words, "More guns, less crime? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"
      Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard's original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.
      "The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates" of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws.
      These findings build on and strengthen the conclusions of Donohue's earlier research, which only used data through 2006. In addition to having nearly two decades' worth of additional data to work with, Donohue's findings also improve upon Lott and Mustard's research by using a variety of different statistical models, as well as controlling for a number of confounding factors, like the crack epidemic of the early 1990s.

    2. Carry laws "are associated with" higher rates of crime. What does "are associated with" mean? It evidently means something less than
      Carry laws "are the cause of" higher rates of crime.

    3. You cannot conduct an experiment in which you randomly assign people to carry weapons or not and then count the homicides, so it is not possible to establish causality. All the data will thus be correlational. You use tue phrase "are associated with" when a correlation exists. As an actuary, you know this but you want to pretend correlation means nothing. You are a fraud, David.

    4. Don't tell ideologues like David but the decrease in violent crime corresponds to a decrease in households with guns from a majority to a percentage down in the 30s....It's the gun nuts expanding their arsenals and egos that accounts for the boom in sales.

    5. Don't tell ideologues like David but the decrease in violent crime corresponds to a decrease in households with guns from a majority to a percentage down in the 30s....It's the gun nuts expanding their arsenals and egos that accounts for the boom in sales.

    6. Back in January of 2013 Alex Knapp [LINK] in un-Forbes like fashion highlighted a Mother Jones article, over-selling it a tad at that:

      [QUOTE] Starting in the 1960s, America saw a huge increase in levels of violent crime that peaked in the early 1990s, then steadily declined, and continues to decline today. All kinds of theories have been promulgated to explain this peak and decline in crime, and plenty of politicians in the 1990s took credit for it.

      But in what I personally consider to be a
      tour de force of journalism, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has summarized all of the available research. All of it points to one simple idea: violent crime rose as a result of... ***[The Drum Article]***
      [END QUOTE]

      Drum references two early responses to his article here [LINK]. On the nature of modern industrial capitalism Drum passes along this entwined tale [LINK]. For a long list of what Drum's written on the subject of the rise and fall of violent crime rates, including some recent posts, go here [LINK]

    7. Drum's hypothesis hasn't gained traction because there are competing explanations that make just as much sense.

    8. The cause of the rise and fall of crime rates is known: leaded gasoline, and its phase-out in the 1970s. Crime follows lead with a twenty-year lag, as kids whose brains have been affected grow up. Read Kevin Drum's excellent articles and posts for Mother Jones.

      Neither liberals nor conservatives want to understand this.

    9. The statistics also rise and fall with drug-related gang activity. The problem with the lead hypothesis is that it doesn't hold up when looking at world-wide statistics whereas drug involvement crosses national boundaries. Lead abatement is a purely national effort.

    10. impCaesarAvgDecember 5, 2015 at 10:33 AM -- I have seen various liberals make this claim about leaded gasoline. It may be correct, but it's not a verified fact. Just a theory. Proving cause is a bitch.

    11. David, most liberals can't be bothered with lead. They'd rather look for social causes of crime.

      At least one way lead damages the growing brain has been found.

      Crime rose and fell twenty years after leaded paint was introduced and banned. Later, the same thing happened with leaded gasoline. Each country that banned leaded gasoline saw a decrease in crime twenty years later.

    12. [QUOTE] The problem with the lead hypothesis is that it doesn't hold up when looking at world-wide statistics... [END QUOTE]

      Huh? [LINK]

    13. Yes, it's lead paint, not a 75% illegitimacy rate and no fathers.

    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    15. @ 3:37 PM

      Is your point the higher the illegitimacy rate the lower the violent crime rate or are you just not following along with what's being discussed at all?

    16. Anon Dec 5 at 3:31 -- Irresponsible sexual behavior, too, rises after childhood exposure to lead.

    17. CMike, lead exposure in childhood promotes all kinds of anti-social behavior in adolescence and adulthood. The lead damages those parts of the growing brain that later help us to foresee the consequences of our actions and to restrain ourselves.

    18. The rate of child birth for unmarried mothers continued to increase until 2008. [LINK] [LINK] [LINK]

      Then again I suppose there's a learned behavior or traditional behavior aspect to the matter which could delay the impact of a change in environmental conditions.

      Meanwhile other CDC data shows that:


      * The percentage of fathers aged 15–44 whose first births were nonmarital was lower in the 2000s (36%) than in the previous 2 decades.

      * Fathers with first births in the 2000s were more likely to be in a nonmarital cohabiting union (24%) than those in the 1980s (19%).

      * The percentage of fathers with a nonmarital first birth over the past 3 decades has remained similar for Hispanic and non-Hispanic white men, but has declined for non-Hispanic black men (1980s, 77%; 2000s, 66%).

      * Fathers with nonmarital first births in the 2000s were less likely to be non-Hispanic black men (21%) than Hispanic (33%) or non-Hispanic white (39%) men.

      * Fathers with nonmarital first births in the 2000s were more likely to be older at the time of the birth (33%) than those in the previous 2 decades.

      [END QUOTE]

      [LINK] [LINK]

      And, of course, we don't have the data in front of us regarding the propensity for the children of unmarried women(/no man in the house during the formative years) versus the children of married women(/man in the house during the formative years) to commit violent crime sometime during their lives.

  3. While you're correct that the homicide rate in Chicago is certainly lower than its peak years, the concern is that in 2015 it seems to be on the rise. To quote the very report you cited:
    "2015 has seen an increase in homicides and shooting incidents compared to 2014. In October, over 18 area alderman called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to dismiss Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy citing a 21% increase in murders and shootings in 2015."

    Unfortunately, this trend does not seem to be limited to Chicago:
    To quote the opening sentence, "Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines...". While the rates don't approach those of 'the bad old days', it is troubling that they are on the rise.

    I have no idea why Spike Lee chose Chicago as the location of his new film, perhaps it's more well known than cities with much higher murder rates:
    but I wouldn't doubt he gets a better k̶i̶c̶k̶b̶a̶c̶k̶ subsidy for filming in Chicago than in E. St. Louis.

    1. One might as likely wonder why he chose Wicker Park to shoot instead of the West or South Side.

    2. Spike Lee's movies are always about race. Chicago is a center, maybe the center, for black culture and politics in the US. That's why Obama moved there as a young man.

    3. Isn't Harlem still the center of black culture and politics in the US?

  4. Screaming from without this numbers analysis — particularly as it is truly topical — are homicide rates involving police as perp. My bet is that this figure is buried & unattainable – that is, the most glaring omission never to be included in the statistical roundup.

  5. One wonders how many of that 432 were deterred by regulation from purchasing a gun, and would be alive but for that obstacle.

    One wonders if it should have been their right to have the means to protect themselves, or if they are obligated to sacrifice their and their families' lives at the altar of the greater good of statistics.

  6. Wyoming
    Gun ownership rate: 59.7%
    Gun homicides per 100,000: 0.9

    Washington DC
    Gun ownership rate: 3.6%
    gun homicides per 100,000: 16.5

    1. If these statistics are correct, it appears widespread gun ownership in certain cultural settings is not correlated with gun murders but under other cultural conditions it is.

  7. Two charts showing that gun homicides have declined while gun ownership grew -- both by large amounts.