As I keep working on studying the relations of which countries do and do not have open borders, the one variable in the United States which keeps sticking out is our very high homicide rate relative to other countries. It is the only variable where we are consistently doing worse than every member of the Schengen Area. Our corruption perceptions index, ease of doing business index, and our press freedom are all in line with member states of the European Union. However, our homicide rate is significantly higher than that of any member state of the Schengen Area.
The big question of course is why, and in order to answer this question I am going to describe what the data shows in several variables:
When it comes to regions, murder rates vary wildly city to city. Statista has the data to fully see where people are most likely to be shot. They found that the cities in the United States with the highest murder rates today are in:
- St. Louis 66.07
- Baltimore 55.77
- Detroit 39.8
- New Orleans 39.5
- Cleveland 27.77
- Memphis 27.73
- Newark 27.14
- Chicago 24.13
- Cincinnati 23.4
- Philadelphia 20.06
- Milwaukee 19.83
- Pittsburgh 17.98
- Indianapolis 17.91
- Stockton 17.77
- Tulsa 17.29
- Washington, DC 16.72
- Atlanta 16.41
- Nashville 16.3
St. Louis has the largest rate by far and than the rate drops significantly after that. Shootings around St. Louis tend to be concentrated around downtown, and in Black neighborhoods. Shooting map, Race map. Almost all of the murders were committed using a firearm.
When it comes to states, we see (unsurprisingly) a similar pattern:
- South Carolina
- New Mexico
Murder disproportionately impacts African Americans more than anyone else.
Here is a map of states with a higher homicide rate than Lithuania:
Here is a map of US Inequality from Wikipedia:
Not a perfect fit, but still pretty darn close.
The best theory so far which I have tested myself and have not broken is that income inequality is the biggest driver of homicide. This journal article shows how the inequality hypothesis is an unbreakable hypothesis (I tried and failed to disprove the inequality hypothesis myself when I was in college) in determining where there will be more homicides using a linear regression. Meaning, the relationship between them is so strong that it is a linear one at that, which is actually highly unusual.
More articles examining the link, none are very long and all are worth reading:
Reading through these articles, along with my own research, I am completely convinced that in order to reduce our homicide rate we need to focus on reducing our inequality.
So, what does this look like in practice?
- Well, the first thing we can do is tax reform. Reducing taxes on low income earners and increasing taxes on the wealthiest in America will make an immediate and lasting effect on American income inequality. This should be fairly obvious. I do not oppose other methods to reduce inequality, but I personally believe this should be the first step. This is part of why I was so quick to join Carbon Washington while studying political economy in college.
- What is the point of increasing disability payments if 10% of that money goes right back to the state? What is the point of increasing TANF when property taxes are hitting low income families the hardest as a percentage of income and 13.4% of their income goes to what is essentially a Ponzi scheme which most low income earners will lose money on? We should obviously do both tax reform and improve our safety net.
- We should invest in Early Childhood Education. The impacts of Preschool are shown to be lifelong. It allows parents to go back to work, increasing their economic well-being, and substantially helps children with their social skills.
- Improving Social security Old Age Insurance would make a significant impact on the ability of people to save and help money in poor families stay in their pockets. I have already written about how Social Security takes money from people who die young (read, are poor and more likely to be a racial minority) and transfers it to people who die old (read, are rich and more likely to be White). Replacing SS OASI with a Basic Income would instead transfer money to those people who need it most, reducing inequality, instead of probably increasing it. That money would stay in their families, not be transferred to richer old white people. The biggest policy move we can do to reduce inequality actually comes from a Republican proposal (if you have read my blog you know I generally have a very low opinion on United Russia, oh, Republicans), and that is to give people the option to privatize their Old Age Insurance contributions. I expect this would end the program within a decade because everyone would opt to privatize their contributions in a situation similar to what Singapore uses. The big difference is when people pass away this money is then inheritable by their heirs because it exists, as opposed to being transferred to rich old white people, as is the policy today. We could also give people the option to put their money in Real Estate as payments on their house mortgage, which is an option in Singapore, which has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. We could also just end the Payroll tax because it is the most regressive tax in America, though I do like the idea of forcing people to invest in their future in a way which actually provides value to their heirs, which OASI does not. This would literally save lives by reducing inequality.
- Ensure all Americans have access to health care, in order to end medical debt which is eating us alive.
- We can significantly increase funding for education at all levels. Free college will put young people on a path to save for retirement which will significantly reduce inequality for the long term. Improving schools in poorer neighborhoods by ending the dependence on local property taxes will have long term effects on economic inequality in the United States.
- We should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit as soon as possible because it works at reducing inequality.
- America seriously needs to join the bandwagon with the rest of the world and implement paid parental leave. This will allow people to keep their jobs and reduce the number of people who have to leave the workforce to take care of their children.
- Ending racial segregation is the 6th idea from the Berkeley article, which will of course be the hardest to implement, but allowing people to use their payroll taxes to pay off their house will help this.
- The OECD points out that tax incentives for education and health care disproportionately benefit the wealthy. We need to switch to a model which subsidizes these activities.
- Improving unemployment benefits for people who lose work which is temporary would help reduce inequality.
- Reducing the gender wage gap, which deserves an article on its own because unlike how social security takes from the poor and gives to the rich, this one is super complicated.
- Cutting unnecessary government expenditures, particularly when it comes to the military, and then using that money for effective social welfare programs will help inequality by making it so money goes to people who actually need it.
- Have no income tax on incomes below $100,000 per year for an individual.
As you can see, there are no shortage of policies the US government can do right now to reduce inequality, save lives, and save money. We should do as many of these as politically possible as soon as we can.
This is ultimately how we will reduce our homicide rate to be in line with other developed economies.
We need to do this now.
Lives are literally on the line.
Black Lives Matter.
References for inequality mitigation: