Hate Crimes: What To Do Now?

According to a recently-released report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in the instances of hate crimes so far this year. As of January 30, there was an average of ninety hate crimes committed per day. This is up from approximately ten per day between 2010 and 2015. Researchers and policy-makers alike have been inclined to address this issue head on, but are having trouble knowing where to start.

Their first problem is the relative lack of credibility of data on these incidents. Data on hate incidents, or “hate crimes” as they’re more commonly called, is not directly collected by any government organization. Agencies, like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), report their findings from independent research to the FBI. Much of their data is collected rather unorthodoxly - through accounts posted to Twitter and Facebook by victims or acquaintances of victims of hate incidents. Without a more developed data collection technique, it becomes difficult for any researcher to determine causation. However, a recent analysis of SPLC and FBI data indicates a strong correlation between the instances of hate crimes and income inequality.

It appears that states with greater income inequality have been more likely to have higher rates of hate incidents per capita in 2017, controlling for other variables. This includes states like New York, which sees income inequality as a result of a diverse population of the urban elite and welfare-dependent, and Kentucky, which has a considerably greater amount of rural destitution. Historically, income inequality has been deemed a key determinant for violence, specifically within smaller communities, like neighborhoods. Hate incidents are  considered a subset of violent crime. According to research by John Hipp of the University of California, Irvine, “greater overall inequality [is] associated with higher crime rates, particularly for violent types of crime.”

It’s possible that there is reporting bias among states so this data cannot be taken as gospel. However, the trend is nonetheless alarming. Should we expect this to continue? And if so, how do we fight it?

Anna Graff

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