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April 27, 2009


Charlie (Colorado)

young people are more violent, less stable, and generally drunk or high (I exaggerate - they aren't that unstable...)

Although, God knows, I tried.


A friend of mine from college told the following story about her grandparents:

Her grandfather beat her and the children regularly. One afternoon she was carefully planning how she was going to hide behind to kitchen door and hack him to death with a meat cleaver when he came home from work. She looked at the door, and the cleaver. She put the knife back in the drawer, and went and packed up some clothes and portable belongings for her and the kids and left. She and the kids never saw him again.

So, at least one anecdote suggests more better options helps keep assholes alive.


Except that I messed that up -- the grandfather beat the grandmother and the kids (including my friend's father). This was all before my friend was born.

Fresh Air

Mickey Kaus will want to credit welfare reform and Paul Krugman will attribute it to rising income inequality.

Okay, I understood that one and laughed. I think I'm spending too much time on the Internets.



Rick Ballard

Nah, executions. Even with the obvious end point bias it's fairly clear.


Plus,you can't get alimony out of a stiff.


Matt Yglesias wonders why women aren't killing men with the murderous abandon of yesteryear,

I know correlation doesn't mean causation, but the Lifetime Channel stopped airing Farrah Fawcett's movie "The Burning Bed" twice each week about five years ago.


Then again, Sean Hannity's theme music is the chorus of a song which celebrates a woman's decision to murder her abusive husband through arson for the benefit of her daughter.


It's a world gone mad.

JM Hanes

Considering the trend lines, I think the more pressing question is why men are still killing white women with such abandon! One might wonder why that one anomalous line has ended up almost exactly where it started out, notwithstanding changes in divorce rates and white women's circumstances. I admit I didn't check the new rule book to find out if it's racist to ask such questions, so perhaps that's why Yglesias only seems to have missed the obvious, rather than the fact that he usually does.


It looks as if the murder rate for white women is also coming down from it's peak. Just too slowly. I do wonder how much the new sport of gutting the husband in a divorce has to do with the higher murder rate, although it's hard to tell. After all, these graphs seem to be total numbers rather than number per thousand. If that is true then OF COURSE the number of white murders is much higher. First there are a lot more whites. Next it's exhusbands who seem to kill, not baby daddies who aren't out any time or money from the random pollen spreading.

Carl Pham

Geez, give me a break, Tom. All this theorizing about why before you've even established what. You need to look carefully at what the data actually show before even trying to guess at causes, I mean, if you're serious.

Just for example, the graph in question uses DOJ data on only cases of husbands and wives killing each other. But what has been the most profound demographic change of the last 30 years? It would be the huge rise in the number of unmarried couples living together (what the Census people call POSSLQs, "Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters"). That trend is also most significant among younger people, who, of course, as you note, are more prone to violence generally.

So let's look back at the raw data and add together the murderers who were (1) husbands + common-law husbands + boyfriends + ex-boyfriends, and (2) wives + common-law wives + girlfriends + ex-girlfriends. That will give us a much better feel for how often men kill their female intimate partners and vice versa, because it corrects for the trend that far more couples are now boyfriend-girlfriend instead of man and wife.

Here are some numbers:

year male female
1976 1114 1399
1980 1071 1461
1990 668 1279
2000 315 1040
2005 278 1047

Remember, the first column is males murdering female lovers, and the second is females murdering male lovers.

A very different result, huh? What you find is that women are MORE likely than men to kill their lover or ex-lover, not less. And over time, if you plot the data, both men and women are less likely to murder their lover or ex-lover -- but the reduction is larger among MEN, not women.

Weird, huh? What accounts for the difference? The girlfriends. Among married couples, men are more likely to commit murder. Among unmarried couples, women are more likely.

Make of that what you will, but it hardly fits the "women have more options now" theory. Because the women who have the most options -- those who are merely girlfriends -- murder their men significantly more often than their supposedly more "trapped" married sisters.

Rick Ballard


It's obvious from those numbers that exposure to the Lifetime Movie Network has emboldened women and emasculated men as it was designed to do.


Rick, Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.


Damn--I haven't seen that network for ages. It was so much fun to watch--Like as soon as a really good looking nice guy came on the scene you could already start humming the theme from Psycho cause you knew he was going to be really evil and abusive....

Ah, the good old days.

Carl Pham

Phoo, Rick, the murder of women by men has been far more stigmatized than vice versa since God was a second-grader. Even today, in these enlightened (ha ha) days, if we hear that husband has murdered wife, then the first thought, in advance of knowing any detail, tends to be My God I hope the bastard gets what's coming to him whereas when we hear wife has murdered husband the first thought, equally ignorant of actual data, tends to be My God I wonder what drove her to that?

From an evolutionary point of view, such attitudes are rational. A womb is far less replaceable to the tribe than a pair of testicles. So Yglesias and others are just acting according to hard-wired instinct, and filtering the data to fit their inborn prejudices.

But if you're going to be surrendering to your gonads, so to speak, you can't simultaneous claim to be using your head. The only aspect of Yglesias's post that's characteristically intellectual in nature is his complete inability to recognize his own instinctual prejudices. Instinct? Tut! That's for animals and Republicans from Alaska. Not people with advanced degrees and enlightened worldviews, such as moi.


P.S. Carl, I don't remember seeing you here before. Stay. You're interesting.

Rick Ballard

Yglesias is the model for the zen question of What is the sound of one synapse firing?

I find making fun of Highly Credentialed Morons to be of great entertainment value and congratulate you on your efforts, Carl.

JM Hanes

"Weird, huh? What accounts for the difference? The girlfriends. Among married couples, men are more likely to commit murder. Among unmarried couples, women are more likely. Make of that what you will, but it hardly fits the "women have more options now" theory."

Fascinating, Carl. That certainly changes the trend lines in the first graph. It would be interesting to know how those stats might turn out in the racial mapping of the second.

Attaching pseudo-sociological explanations to such selective data snapshots is a popular parlor game, but I must admit, I view evolutionary propositions as being just as speculative. I would hasten to add, however, that I think ample evidence confirms your estimation of Ygelsias.


I like these kinds of posts where we can engage in wild speculation of social trends. I think all of Tom's factors are valid guesses. Medical care making a huge difference. Also I agree with others on alimony and child support, certainly a disincentive to kill for women. Plus thanks to Lifetime and just cultural attitude changes, women know they have more ability to get the authorities involved and are more likely to be taken seriously. Also I wonder if thanks to Jerry Springer and such, women realize now that all men cheat and are dogs, and if they get cheated on or left for another woman, it's just par for the course, and they are not alone in that, and are left less murderously enraged by that.

So cultural changes have affected the women. Not so much the men. I think that supports the idea that men kill women for personal psycholgical motives, ie pleasure, dominance, revenge, more than as a more practical matter of trying to stop mistreatment. It's also possible that the factors that have decreased womens' murderous rampages have prevented the male rate from going down as much as it might have, as men are more angry about paying child support.

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