by Doctor Science
I was working on a post (about school and other shootings) and wanted to check one fact. Result: a couple days of work later, I have found out something really odd about murder in America. I'm nothing of an expert in the field, so I'm hoping that someone who *does* know about it can come along and say what the experts think is going on -- or if I've noticed something that the experts haven't.
I'm talking about two things, possibly related, concerning intimate partner homicide (IPH):
1. 30-40 years ago (and possibly earlier), it was almost as common for American men to be killed by their partners as for women. This is extremely unusual: in other countries and cultures, the rate of IPH for women is two to four times that for men.
a. Since then, the US pattern has changed, so that nowadays many more women are victims of IPH than men are.
Note on the charts: All data in this post are taken from Homicide Trends in the U.S. from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, especially the section on Intimate homicide. Charts with a gray background and yellow margin are taken directly from the BJS report, while those with a white background were created by me based on BJS data. Let me know if I need to show my work in GoogleDocs.
b. This is almost entirely due to a change in IPH among black Americans. The high American rate of husband-and-boyfriend killing was largely a black phenomenon. Since the 70s, the death rate for black men due to IPH has plummeted, faster than the drop in IPH for black women.
Cut for length and images --
2. The overall murder rate has gone down greatly since peaking around 1980 and again in the early 90s. This has been across the board, for all races, both sexes, and most categories of homicide.
The exception is IPH of white women, which has dropped only slightly in the past decades. White women are being killed by their partners at about the same rate as they were 40 years ago, even though the rate of most other types of homicide has fallen. Whatever has caused the decline in murder -- an industrialized-world-wide phenomenon -- it does not protect white women from IPH.
As I dug around looking for more info about IPH, one point was emphasized again and again: statistically speaking, men and women kill their partners for different reasons:
Women tend to commit homicide against a partner as a last resort in a long history of abuse ... Men tend to commit homicide based on perceived threats to their power and controlWhat the researchers I'm quoting and others have found says that women's shelters save men's lives. The availability of shelters, abuse hotlines, and other networks of resources and support means that many fewer women are driven to the last resort of murder, and so many fewer men are killed. It's pretty clear that the scholars think most of these men need killin', but that doesn't mean the women in question deserve to have to become murderers.
So the drop in IPH of males seems to be explicable. What no-one (that I can find with my limited knowledge of the field) seems to have noticed is that the IPH rate for white women has barely budged.
I'm going to stop this post now, so y'all can discuss. Tomorrow (or so) I'll put up my further thoughts about the whys and wherefores.