Posted on December 30, 2008

Study: Murders Among Black Youths on Rise

AP, December 29, 2008

The number of young black men and teenagers who either killed or were killed in shootings has risen at an alarming rate since 2000, a new study shows.


Last year, for example, 426 black males between the ages of 14 and 17 were killed in gun crimes, the study shows. That marked a 40 percent increase from 2000.

‘We need a bailout for kids at risk’

Similarly, an estimated 964 in the same age group committed fatal shootings in 2007—a 38 percent increase from seven years earlier. The number of offenders is estimated because not all crimes are reported, said Northeastern criminologist James Alan Fox, who co-authored the study.

“Although the overall rate of homicide in the United States remains relatively low, the landscape is quite different for countless Americans living, and some dying, in violence-infested neighborhoods,” Fox said.

Seizing on President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming administration as an opportunity for more funding, Fox added: “There is an urgency for reinvestment in children and families. In essence, we need a bailout for kids at risk.”


The study partly blamed Bush administration grant cuts to local police and juvenile crime prevention programs for the surge in crimes by young black men and teens. Incoming Vice President Joe Biden has promised funding to put 50,000 new police officers on the street to help bring violent crime rates back to a decade-long annual decline that began in the mid-1990s, after then-President Bill Clinton provided local officials with money to hire 100,000 new cops.

Murders up about 8 percent since 2000


The FBI reported 10,067 arrests in murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases in 2007. Half of the people arrested—5,078—were black. Almost 10 percent of black people arrested for murder were under age 18, the FBI data show.

The number of young white men who committed gun-related homicides also rose over the same period, the Northeastern study showed, but not as dramatically. In 2007, an estimated 384 white males age 14 to 17 shot someone to death, up from 368 in 2000.


[Editor’s Note: Report on surge in homicide by young, black males,” by James A. Fox is listed as available for downloading as a PDF file here.]

James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, whose study of homicide trends provided the basis for a somewhat misleading article in the New York Times today, has kindly sent me some more detailed data (derived from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics website) on recent trends in homicide offending rates.

Here’s the NYT’s graphs, which show not the expected rate per capita but the absolute number of perpetrators. The reader who doesn’t stop to take this into account would assume that the black homicide rate is about twice the “white” rate. But, of course, there are far more white than black teens, so the black rate is actually much higher than just twice as bad.

First, Dr. Fox confirmed for me that what the New York Times referred to as number of homicides perpetrated by “whites” is actually the number for “whites plus most Hispanics.” (The federal government is very careful about breaking out Hispanic statistics separately in almost all venues except crime rates. I wonder why?) This is an important point because it’s likely that Hispanics now commit the majority of homicides in the younger age groups of the government’s “whites plus Hispanics” aggregation.

Second, he sent me the per capita rates, from which I have calculated the ratio of homicide perpetrating rates. The following table lists the ratio of the murder rate for blacks to the murder rate for whites plus Hispanics. For example, in 2007, the black homicide rate among 14-17 year-old-males was 10.0 times the level of homicide rate for the aggregation of whites and Hispanics.

14–17 18–24 25+
2000 8.1 9.1 7.6
2001 7.6 8.3 7.3
2002 7.0 8.3 7.6
2003 7.7 8.6 7.7
2004 7.7 8.2 7.0
2005 8.5 8.7 7.8
2006 9.3 9.3 8.1
2007 10.0 9.4 7.8

From this, it appears fairly safe to say that by 2007, the ratio of black to non-Hispanic white homicide rates was at least an order of magnitude for all age groups.