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I already blogged this general issue, but the ‘grim sleeper’ murderer was caught because of a match of old samples with those of us his son. If I had to bet money I think this sort of result (California and Colorado are the two American states which have a system in place to allow for this) is going to allow for a push toward more widespread usage of the technique. It may be that we need to stop talking about privacy as if we can put off the inevitable future, and start talking about accuracy and precision with the data that is going to be easily available to authorities. By the way, I found this objection somewhat strange:

“I can imagine lots of African-American families would think it is not fair to put a disproportionate number of black families under permanent genetic surveillance,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who has written about this issue.

A disproportionate number of black families have relatives incarcerated. The American public does not seem particular worried about that. As I noted before, criminal behavior is not randomly distributed across families. Rather, there are distinct clusters, so familial genetic data is going to be more efficacious than you would expect if the commission of crime consisted of a sequence of independent events.

I have to add that worries about this technology strike me as a bit rich, in light of the fact that methods which are proven to be highly subjective and often inaccurate, such as fingerprinting and eyewitness identification, are accepted in the criminal justice system. I worry about what the state could do with DNA data if the state became malevolent, but despite its flaws it seems to me far preferable as a means of assessing evidence than some of the “tried & true” techniques. So let’s keep some perspective.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crime, Culture, DNA, DNA fingerprinting 
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Despite recession, crime keeps falling:

In times of recession, property crimes, in particular, are expected to rise.

They haven’t.

Overall, property crimes fell by 6.1 percent, and violent crimes by 4.4 percent, according to the six-month data collected by the FBI. Crime rates haven’t been this low since the 1960′s, and are nowhere near the peak reached in the early 1990′s.

Who expected crime to increase? Did you? I did. But I didn’t know anything about crime statistics over time so I was working off naive intuition. Did social scientists expect this? I recall a lot of worry in the media about a year ago that the crime drop which started in the 1990s would be reversed, and I shared the worry. Here’s Matt Yglesias worrying last January:

I think this is worth worrying about. One thing we know about crime is that when wages and employment levels for low-skill workers are high, crime goes down. Another is that mass incarceration works – increase the number of beds in prison and the number of sentence-years handed out and the crime rate drops. But the first of these is the reverse of what happens in a recession, and the second we’ve already pushed well past the limit of cost-effectiveness (see here) and it’s inconceivable to me that you could actually push this far enough to compensate for the declining economy in the context of declining state budgets.

It’s easy to find national uniform crime reports data back to 1960, and unemployment rates. Quick correlations between 1960-2008 are:

Violent Crime Aggregated 0.37
Murder 0.52
Rape 0.37
Robbery 0.53
Assault 0.24

Property Crime Aggregated 0.53

One seems to see a modest expectation for a rise in crime then over this time period. But poking around the ICPSR I came across Eric Monkkonen’s data sets on homicide in New York City going back to the 19th century. Below are homicides per capita by year between 1900 and 2000. The second chart is log-transformed.

It seems that there’s another “Depression Paradox” here. The economic distress of the Great Depression seems to have been associated with less crime, while the economic exuberance of the 1920s led to more crime. So if I constrained the time series from 1920-1940 the correlations might be quite different.

All things equal the recent past is a better guide to the near future than the less recent past. But it’s important to remember that history does sometimes work in cycles, and the deeper past can occasionally give us insights which the recent past can not. One could construct a tentative model whereby basal crime rates reflect cultural norms, and once norms and crime hit a particular “equilibrium” it may take a bit of a “shock” for it to shift out of the stable state.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crime, Data 
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There’s a new book out, American Homicide, which has some interesting arguments:

He concluded that people’s views about the legitimacy of government and how much they identify with their fellow citizens play a major role in how often they kill each other — much more so than the usual theories revolving around guns, poverty, drugs, race, or a permissive justice system.

“The predisposition to murder is rooted in feelings and beliefs people have toward government and their fellow citizens,” said Randolph Roth, author of the book and professor of history at Ohio State.

That includes theories held dear by both conservatives and liberals. If you look at the evidence over time, poverty and unemployment don’t lead to higher murder rates, as many liberals argue, he said. But locking up criminals, using the death penalty, and adding more police don’t hold the murder rate down either, as conservatives claim.

In his analysis, Roth found four factors that relate to the homicide rate in parts of the United States and western Europe throughout the past four centuries: the belief that one’s government is stable and its justice and legal systems are unbiased and effective; a feeling of trust in government officials and a belief in their legitimacy; a sense of patriotism and solidarity with fellow citizens; and a belief that one’s position is society is satisfactory and that one can command respect without resorting to violence.

When those feelings and beliefs are strong, homicide rates are generally low, regardless of the time or place, Roth said. But when people are unsure about their government leaders, don’t feel connected to the rest of society, and feel they don’t have opportunity to command respect in the community, homicide rates go up.

The main issue I have with the explanations for crime variance out there is that the 1960s spike and the 1990s abatement were synchronous internationally. So I’m skeptical of policy changes being the ultimate cause of these cycles.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crime 
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In the post below, Colder climates favor civilization even among Whites alone, I made a few comments about possible differences between Germans in Illinois and Germans in Texas, based on nothing much more than a hunch. I trust my hunches, but there’s no reason you should, so I decided to see if there was anything here in regards to my assumption about interregional differences in intelligence and how they might track across ethnic groups. So of course I went to the GSS website, and checked the mean WORDSUM scores of various white ethnic groups broken down by region. I specifically focused on whites who stated that their ancestors were from England & Wales, Germany and Ireland. My reasoning is that these are three groups with very large N’s within the GSS sample and they are well represented across the regions in absolute numbers. My main motivation was see if the differences across regions were similar for all three groups. Here are the states for each region (the Census made up these categories):

New England – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut
Middle Atlantic – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
East North Central – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin
West North Central – Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas
South Atlantic – Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida
East South Central – Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi
West South Central – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
Mountain – Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada
Pacific – Washington, Imbler, California, Alaska, Hawaii

Obviously the breakdown isn’t ideal. I think Delaware and Maryland arguably should be Mid-Atlantic. I also believe that Wisconsin is more plausibly in the West North Central than Missouri or Kansas is. But those are the regional breakdowns and I can’t do anything about them.

So, WORDSUM is a vocabulary test on a 0-10 scale. For the whole GSS sample the mean was 6.00, with 1 standard deviation being 2.16. Below is a chart which shows the relationship between WORDSUM scores (Y axis) for various regions (X axis) for each of the three ethnic groups:


The tables below are pretty self-explanatory. At the top you see the mean WORDSUM scores for each ethnic group for each region. I put the N’s in there as well so you can see that the sample sizes were pretty big. Note that there is more interregional variation within an ethnic group than there is interethnic variation within a region (the standard deviation across the columns is 50% bigger than across the rows). Just to be clear, I also included some tables which show the differences in WORDSUM mean scores between the regions like so: (row – column) = value.

New England

Middle Atlantic

East North Central

West North Central

South Atlantic

East South Central

West South Central

Mountain

Pacific

N

England & Wales

7.4

7.09

6.71

6.65

6.66

6.2

6.87

6.84

7.1

2,462

Germany

7.7

6.31

6.01

6.33

6.16

5.83

6.2

6.37

6.36

3,316

Ireland

6.98

7.07

6.15

6.46

6.06

5.66

6.03

6.51

6.88

2,207

tyle="text-align: left; width: 1.3673in;">

England & Wales

New England

Middle Atlantic

East North Central

West North Central

South Atlantic

East South Central

West South Central

Mountain

Pacific

New England

-

0.31

0.69

0.75

0.74

1.2

0.53

0.56

0.3

Middle Atlantic

-

-

0.38

0.44

0.43

0.89

0.22

0.25

-0.01

East North Central

-

-

-

0.06

0.05

0.51

-0.16

-0.13

-0.39

West North Central

-

-

-

-

-0.01

0.45

-0.22

-0.19

-0.45

South Atlantic

-

-

-

-

-

0.46

-0.21

-0.18

-0.44

East South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.67

-0.64

-0.9

West South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0.03

-0.23

Mountain

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.26

Pacific

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Germany

New England

Middle Atlantic

East North Central

West North Central

South Atlantic

East South Central

West South Central

Mountain

Pacific

New England

-

1.39

1.69

1.37

1.54

1.87

1.5

1.33

1.34

Middle Atlantic

-

-

0.3

-0.02

0.15

0.48

0.11

-0.06

-0.05

East North Central

-

-

-

-0.32

-0.15

0.18

-0.19

-0.36

-0.35

West North Central

-

-

-

- <
/p>

0.17

0.5

0.13

-0.04

-0.03

South Atlantic

-

-

-

-

-

0.33

-0.04

-0.21

-0.2

East South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.37

-0.54

-0.53

West South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.17

-0.16

Mountain

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0.01

Pacific

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Ireland

New England

Middle Atlantic

East North Central

West North Central

South Atlantic

East South Central

West South Central

Mountain

Pacific

New England

-

-0.09

0.83

0.52

0.92

1.32

0.95

0.47

0.1

Middle Atlantic

-

-

0.92

0.61

1.01

1.41

1.04

0.56

0.19

East North Central

-

-

-

-0.31

0.09

0.49

0.12

-0.36

-0.73

West North Central

-

-

-

-

0.4

0.8

0.43

-0.05

-0.42

South Atlantic

-

-

-

-

-

0.4

0.03

-0.45

-0.82

East South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.37

-0.85

-1.22

West South Central

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.48

-0.85

Mountain

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0.37

Pacific

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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43% of young men who never go to church have a record, according to the Inductivist:

The same kind of pattern holds here. For men, 43% of those who never go to church have been arrested, while only 13% of the most frequent attenders have. The corresponding percentages for females is 14% and 8%.

The results are from the GSS. The main question I would have are the affects of the background environment; in many socially conservative environments the expectation of involvement in a church is very strong and unchurched status could be a signal for anti-social tendencies. I know whereof I speak, I grew up for a while in a 3/4 Republican 99% white region of the Mountain West and those who were unchurched were often those who were “up to no good” (a small minority were secular liberals, but only a very small minority). My own prediction would be that this would be a more common phenomenon in a very religious country like the United States.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crime, GSS, Religion 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"