Thursday, July 17, 2014

Does lack of education increase violent crime? Religion?

I have heard an enormous amount of talk about justice from the traditional media and the political establishment. This has, of course, been going on for a long time and I'm certainly everyone has as well.

This discussion of justice almost never involves figuring out what the root causes of crime are and attempting to inform the public of the most effective ways to prevent them are. I often get the impression that either I don't know what this form of justice is or the majority of the people on the commercial media don't know what justice is.

That doesn't mean that there aren't efforts to figure out what the most effective ways to reduce crime are; but unfortunately the best ones get little or no attention from the commercial media or the political establishment. Intentionally or not this results in an opportunity to compare crime rates from different states and other characteristics from those states to find out what some of the contributing causes of crime might be.

I have reported on the leading contributing causes of crime, especially violent crime, previously and come to the conclusion that the biggest one is almost certainly early child abuse, including corporal punishment, that escalates to bullying, hazing, domestic violence and other forms of crime later in life. another major contributing factor is almost certainly poverty especially in some abandoned inner city schools where the educations system is extremely dysfunctional. The most recent report of this has been Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows which demonstrates that reducing child abuse and repairing schools could do an enormous amount to reduce crime dramatically and Politics, not technology, caused botched executions where I indicated that there is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that the death penalty as a deterrent, which has an enormous amount of political support, clearly doesn't work at all and is distracting from real solutions.

Reviewing the ten states that have the highest and lowest graduation rates; the strongest or weakest religious beliefs; most effective or lenient gun laws; most or least support of organized gambling; and political affiliation and how they deal with these issues; and comparing them with the highest murder rates, incarceration rates, and reports of violent crime could help understand how these might influence crime.

Statistics like these might help indicate causes of crime but without additional back up I wouldn’t consider them the strongest types of evidence to indicate what causes crime. In some cases there are strong correlations indicated and others they aren’t quite so clear. With multiple contributing causes it would be inappropriate to jump to conclusions without sorting out potential contributing factors; but this could narrow things down. In mot cases additional research has been included when it has been easily available.

This includes hard facts which can be confirmed from sources that have been cited followed by an evaluation, which I don’t expect everyone to agree with, although if there is a strong correlation it almost certainly indicates some kind of a connection one way or another.

This is not be the most authoritative review; but I did my best to show sources and present the work in a way that people without advanced education can understand it and come to their own conclusions by reviewing it themselves.

Most of the conclusions will be saved until after showing the work, as it should be, but, regrettably in many cases the political establishment and the media is ignoring some of the most important research; in many cases it is clear that the most rational course of action isn't being chosen by politicians and instead of informing the public about it the media often repeats appeals to emotions that distract from research that would enable the public to make some of the most rational decisions.

Even if this isn’t the best review available it is, as far as I can tell significantly better than what the political establishment and the media presents.

The reason for this isn’t because this is as thorough as it should be; regrettably it is better than the political establishment and the mainstream media because they don’t even seem to be trying to do a good job.

If you doubt that take a look at either this review or one even better from academic sources, alternative media or the library and think about whether you think the political establishment or media comes close to matching it.

The first part of this review covers comparisons with graduation rates and religious faith. Follow up posts will include coverage gambling, gun control, rates of gun related deaths, political affiliation and additional comparisons with the different categories. Additional follow ups might include reviews of violence from military veterans, efforts to prevent crime from grass roots efforts or alternative parties to the Democrats and Republicans and other countries and the impact that insurance advertising or other corporate interests might have on crime.

This review includes information from the following sources:

City-Data Crime rate in the US: Murders, Rapes, Robberies, Assaults, Burglaries, Thefts, Auto thefts, Arson

Wikipedia Crime rate for cities above 250,000 population

Mississippi most religious, Vermont least, survey says 01/29/2009

Church or synagogue attendance by state

State rankings of high school and college graduation rates 2011

State rankings of college graduation rates up to 2009 at this time

Gun laws by state

Firearms Death Rate per 100,000 (most recent) by state

Gambling in the United States

Murder rates by state at the Death Penalty Information Center .

Incarceration rates by state

reports of violent crime per 100,000 and previous post about Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows

Of the ten with the highest murder rates five of them are in the ten lowest rates of graduation one more is eleventh and the state with the highest rate of graduation is 22nd.

Of the ten with the lowest murder rates six of them are in the top ten graduation rates and one is the eleventh; the lowest one is 21st.

Of the ten with the highest incarceration rates five of them are in the ten lowest graduation rates and one more is eleventh; the highest is 23rd lowest.

Of the ten with the lowest incarceration rates six are in the tenth highest graduation rates; the lowest is 36th.

Of the ten with the highest rates of reported violent crimes three of them are in the lowest ten graduation rates, one more is eleventh and the highest is Alaska at 3rd; none of the other ten were in the top twenty for graduation.

Of the ten with the lowest rates of reported violent crimes seven were in the top ten graduation rates; the lowest was Kentucky at 47th and Virginia at 29th.

The correlation with high school graduation and lower rates of violent crime and incarceration should be common knowledge by now and it has been confirmed in numerous studies over the last several decades, including some listed below. This should be a clear indication that more efforts should be made to keep children in school including, at time providing adequate funding for the schools and providing social programs to help parents when they need it, since this is far less expensive than prisons later in life.

Unfortunately instead of doing this they take the connection between high drop-out rates for granted and rarely discuss it while repeating get tough on crime rhetoric over and over again. In many cases, in addition to spending more on prisons they also spend more on legal expenses and propaganda to avoid putting the funds into lower income school. The arguments to justify this are routinely ignored when it comes to funding higher income schools. 

Study Finds High Rate of Imprisonment Among Dropouts 7/08/2009

Study bolsters argument linking graduation rates to cutting crime 09/12/2013

Study Bolsters Argument Linking Graduation Rates to Cutting Crime 09/27/2013

Of the ten with the highest murder rates six are among the ten most religious; the least religious is Delaware at 30th.

Of the ten with the lowest murder rates five are among the ten least religious; the most is Utah at 14th; none of the others are in the top 20 for religion.

Of the ten with the highest incarceration rates seven of them are among the ten most religious; the other three are Missouri at 15th, Florida at 23rd, and Arizona at 33rd.

Of the ten with the lowest incarceration rates six are among the ten least religious; the most is Utah at 14th followed by North Dakota at 18th and Nebraska at 20th.

Of the ten with the highest rates of reported violent crimes four of them are among the ten most religious and one more is eleventh; two of them are among the ten least religious; Alaska is the least religious at 46th followed by Nevada at 42nd; the rest are among the thirty most religious.

Of the ten with the lowest rates of reported violent crimes three of them are among the ten least religious; Kentucky, the only one in the ten least reports of violent crime, is the most religious at 10th followed by Utah at 14th and Virginia at 16th.

When it comes to murder rates and incarceration rates religious states are higher in both cases; however it isn't quite so clear when it comes to total reports of violent crime, although religious states seem to have slightly higher rates. When comparing it to states based on their church attendance it is almost identical although Utah is in fifth, which means that one of the states with the ten lowest murder and incarceration rates is among the most religious.

A relatively brief glance at the murder rates over the past seventeen years indicates that the murder rates haven't changed that much and it is mostly the same states that are in the top and bottom murder rates, although at times Arkansas drops barely out of the tenth it is often replaced by Georgia which is also in the ten most religious, making this change negligible.

This still doesn't explain causation; however as I explained in the previous post about corporal punishment the people that are most likely to use corporal punishment are often the most religious since it is often part of their religious belief as taught by many religious leaders including James Dobson. And the research cited in previous posts about this also indicate reason to believe that early abuse as a child often leads to escalating abuse later in life including bullying, hazing and domestic violence.

There have been several other studies to determine if religion impacts crime as well and they haven't all come to the same conclusions; one that used similar methods and came to similar conclusions is Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? | They do, appropriately, caution, "But remember: correlation is not necessarily causation. There are many other variables, including poverty and education levels, that affect the crime rate." However, as I said, other research almost certainly indicates that part of the evidence for causation is almost certainly related to the connection with corporal punishment and other forms of abuse to children that might be related to religion. Also there appears to be a correlation with poverty, lack of education and religion as well, although it is difficult to tell which one causes the others or if another factor causes all three, or if they cause each other.

The most notable study, that I know of, that comes to significantly different conclusions is How religion cuts crime: Church-goers are less likely to shoplift, take drugs and download music illegally, which is based primarily on a survey of 1,200 people in the United Kingdom. It was led by PhD student Mark Littler. This means that they're essentially relying on the honesty of their respondents and it doesn't cover more serious crimes since they're not common enough to "show a significant pattern." It doesn't take into consideration murder rates or crimes in the U.S. or other countries.

The sources that I used to determine religious beliefs also use surveys, however they have less motive to lie about whether or not they believe in God than they might about whether or not they might be inclined to commit certain crimes like the use of illegal drugs and music piracy or other crimes. The statistics from the FBI for murder, violent crime and incarceration rates are almost certainly more reliable, although in the case of violent crime it is reported by local communities on a voluntary basis. Voluntary reports of violent crime is the one where the correlation with religion and crime is the least conclusive.

However this doesn't mean there is nothing to this study although I don't consider it very reliable. While reviewing the crimes in Sweden for the previous post about Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows I noticed that one of the few crimes that they might have higher rates of were theft of intellectual property or other property crimes, which might have been slightly higher. When it comes to violent crime, including murder Sweden has much lower rates and they're less religious than the U.S. As far as the theft of intellectual property there should be some doubt about whether this should be considered a crime at all in many cases. The laws on this haven't been made in a democratic manner and they almost certainly benefit those with the most political power at the expense of those with the least as I attempted to explain in a post about Copyright violators are thought criminals. Intellectual property isn't actually physical property and when someone listens to a song or reads an educational book they don't deprive others of the ability to do so as well. And the laws often do more to protect large institutions than they do to protect the authors they were originally intended to protect.

One reason for this might be that regions teach obedience to authority and they're less likely to teach critical thinking skills. Regardless of which religion people belong to the beliefs are chosen by their leaders and they're preached to the majority who aren't expected to question them, in most cases. This might explain why religious people might be more willing to accept their leaders laws about intellectual property than non-religious people are. In a democratic system the public is supposed to understand the laws and participate in their creation.

This article also cites Belief in hell, according to international data, is associated with reduced crime, which also uses a large amount of information from surveys, to back up their conclusions but fails to mention those that disagree or address their concerns. The methods used by this study are more complex than I can review at a brief glance but I remain skeptical of it for now. The information he cites for his conclusions aren't readily available; but the information that is available seems to contradict his conclusions. Even though the surveys that I have seen to determine religious faith doesn't address belief in heaven and hell it is reasonable to believe the less religious, living in states with lower murder or violent crime rates are less likely to believe in heaven and hell.

In another study which mostly agrees with my conclusions, Religion, Atheism and Crime, they claim "Religiosity had no significant relationship with violent crime, but it had a notable positive correlation with property crime. To see this, I simply used Microsoft Excel to plot the numbers against each other (see charts below). If nothing else, this data disproves the notion that less religious belief inexorably contributes to, or is correlated with, more crime. Not only is this completely false, but the opposite--that religion is correlated with crime--is somewhat true."

I didn't look as closely at property crime as he did but find it hard to see how he came to the conclusion that there is "no significant relationship with violent crime" when he used similar sources to mine, although for different years and they had several of the most religious states among the highest murder rates and the least religious among the lowest murder rates. later in his article he does come to seemingly contradictory conclusions that are more in agreement with my conclusions; "The US is the most murderous country in the rich world by far, while being one of the most religious. About 33% of Americans indicate religion is not important in their daily lives. For the least murderous societies (which include Singapore, Austria, Norway, Switzerland and Germany), this number is never lower than 40%, and goes as high as 78%"

Some states which might be a notable exceptions to the correlation between religion and higher crime might be Virginia, Kentucky and Utah. Virginia and Kentucky are among the ten states with the least reports for violent crime but they're on a voluntary basis so this data isn't as reliable as the murder rates or incarceration rates; and Utah is in the lowest for all three; and they're in the highest ten for graduation rates. Utah is the only state that is mostly, 60%, Mormon. The only other state that has a double digit population of Mormons is Idaho and they also have relatively low crime rates but they're not among the most religious.

As I indicated in A Relatively Brief History of the Mormon Church they have an extensive history of violence from the nineteenth century so this might seem surprising. However in the nineteenth century the whole country was more violent including other religions. There is also evidence of numerous high profile cases that have been listed in the previous article and they all had a history of violent upbringing; but they're only a small percentage of the population.

One reason why Utah might have lower violent crime rates than other states is that they have strong oppositions to gambling and drinking, which are also contributing factors to violence. A more important reason why they might have lower violent crime rates than other religions might be that unlike most other religions the Mormon Church no longer supports corporal punishment for children and it is, for the most part, banned in schools according to Beating Children With State Support. The article claims that “the LDS church has consistently discouraged this approach to child rearing;” however a review of the history of the Mormon church doesn't back this up especially the early Mormon history. But in more recent history former President of the Mormon Church Gordon Hinckley, “called physical abuse of children unnecessary, unjustified and indefensible.” He said: “I have never accepted the principle of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. Children don’t need beating. They need love and encouragement.”

If the majority of the Mormon followers abide by this belief then that could explain the reduction in violence among Mormons; however this might not apply to sects that are often referred to as Fundamentalists, like Warren Jeffs sect. Any violence that happens in some of these sects might not be reflected in this review since it is based on reports of violence that are reported and isolated sects would almost certainly not report any violence that might take place there if they have a choice.

A closer look at this might indicate that it provides additional evidence that corporal punishment leads to escalating violence and in the long run eliminating it will lead to reductions in violence. Olivier Muarel and Alice Miller has also called on the pope to speak out against child abuse in a letter written by Olivier Muarel and cited by Alice Miller. Miller asks "If the Catholic Church were to open its eyes, train its gaze on the cruelty being done to children, and speak out against it, would that have a detrimental effect on the power of the church? Probably, for at present time that power rests squarely on the subjection of the faithful to its authoritarian decrees. If self-possessed believers were to begin questioning the power structures of the church, those structures would come tumbling down." The result of Gordon Hinckley's position on corporal punishment is probably only beginning to impact beliefs, although it is too soon to determine if Alice Millers prediction will come true.

Most Mormon's remain loyal but many of them are almost certainly becoming more moderate and questioning their Church leaders when they think they're wrong. Recently the Mormon Church excommunicated Kate Kelly when she spoke out in favor of ordaining women and they also excommunicated numerous other people over the years including Sonia Johnson who was an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. They're actually more reluctant to do this than they were in the past since it brings more unwanted publicity than it used to but the alternative is to allow free thinking people to raise more questions about their beliefs and some of them might erode some of their beliefs in the long run.

The following are a few additional articles about religion and crime:

Predominantly Atheist Countries Have Lowest Crime Rate According To Study - Religion - Nairaland

American Humanist: God would be an atheist: Why can't we all be Japanese?

Google of additional citations of this study.

Atheists don’t commit as much crime as the Religious do.

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