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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Statistics: "Violence in Iraq in Perspective"

Somewhere out there, facts are lurking that provide some perspective that the daily news does not. A case in point is found at (big hat tip to Chap)Back Talk: Violence in Iraq in Perspective:
Right now, the violent death rate in Iraq is comparable to that in South Africa [note: the number for Iraq comes in a little higher now that I have corrected the population estimate]. Did you know that? It caught me by surprise because I generally only hear good things about that country.

In the U.S., the homicide rate for African Americans is about 20 per 100,000. As such, it is still quite a bit more dangerous to be an Iraqi civilian living in Iraq than it is to be an African American living in the U.S. Back in the early 1990s, however, the rate was about 40 per 100,000...
Thus, violence in Iraq today is comparable to violence in black America in the early 1990s. Although it might not be a fair comparison, the same cannot be said for young black males living in the U.S.:

African-American males between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest firearm homicide rate of any demographic group. Their firearm homicide rate of 103.4 deaths per 100,000 is 10 times higher than the rate for white males in the same age group (10.5 deaths per 100,000).

Of course, if we selected out young Muslim males in Iraq, their violent death rate would be extremely high as well (higher than for young black males here at home, I would assume). Still, it is sobering to realize that it is twice as dangerous to be a young black male living in the U.S. than it is to be an Iraqi civilian living in Iraq.
Of course, I again commend Darrell Huff's classic How to Lie with Statistics as a cautionary warning of trusting one statistical analysis or another.

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