Race Differences in Criminality: Genes, Economics, & The Environment

Race differences in crime are poorly explained by environmental factors, and so it seems that race differences themselves play a larger role

Race differences in criminality have long been talked about in intellectual and layman circles, but there is little to no debate that some racial/ ethnic populations commit more crimes than others. Only some people who are on the very fringes of the debate would deny this. Regardless, at least hypothetically, there is a clear consensus that blacks and Hispanics commit more crimes than the white and Asian population. One place of disagreement is the age-old question: why? Why do people commit more crimes than others? Is it all due to the environment, or is there a biological explanation to this? Hopefully, this article explains both the environmental and biological explanations.

Race Differences in Crime Rates:

Within the United States, blacks and Hispanics commit more crime than whites and Asians. Beaver, Ellis and Wright (2009) found that blacks commit more crimes than whites, and The Color of Crime (2016) is maybe the only study to separate Hispanics from whites, showing that blacks and Hispanics commit more crime than whites and Asians in virtually all crime categories and age groups; the reason this matters is due to an effect called “The Hispanic Effect.”

“Two federal agencies are tasked with collecting and disseminating crime statistics. One, the FBI, is actually prohibited by law from collecting ethnic data. It classifies most Hispanic offenders as “white,” thus bloating the non-Hispanic white contribution to crime while completely missing the Hispanic contribution. The second agency, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, does no better. It classifies offenders only as “black,” “white” or “other race.” Again, most Hispanic offenders fall into the white category.  Neither agency recognizes “Hispanic” as a classification. This blurring of ethnic differences by federal agencies has come to be known as the “Hispanic effect” (Prodigy 2012).

An article on Channel 4 News ran a fact check and found this:

“There is evidence in the official police-recorded figures that black Americans are more likely to commit certain types of crime than people of other races” (Worrall 2014).

To be fair, they do say that blacks commit more crimes because of poverty, but that’s something I’ll get into a little later in this article. Now that I’ve shown that there’s race differences in criminality, we should get into the question on why? The popular arguments people use to explain black crime are poverty, single motherhood, and other general environmental factors, but they don’t explain race differences in criminality.

Environmental Factors:

Single Motherhood:

According to some people, most notably men’s rights activist Warren Farrell in his book The Boy Crisis, the reason men commit more crimes is because of single motherhood; boys need their fathers or else they’ll turn into criminals. So, at least by this logic, it’ll make sense for blacks and Hispanics to commit more crimes because they have the highest single-motherhood rate.

Kids Count

Before we continue, we have to ask if people with no dad commit more crime; the answer to that is yes, but that doesn’t mean that its due because the person doesn’t have a dad. Well & Rankin (1991) meta-analyzed  44 studies on the correlation between crime and single motherhood. The correlation between the two was statistically weak.  Broken-Home theorist also claim that crime rose when single-parenthood increased in the 1960’s, however, the consistency between crime and single motherhood is bad since in the 1990’s violent crime dropped when single-parenthood continued to rise (Luscombe 2012).

To the degree that single-motherhood impacts crime is small. According to Petrosino et al. (2009) which reviewed 5 meta-analysis on the relationship between crime and family structure, the correlations produced between someones family breaking up and them becoming a criminal later in life was .07, .09, .09, .10, and .10. Thus, the effects of single-motherhood and criminality was statistically weak. Table 2 gives a list of factors and their correlations:


So the statistical correlation between single-motherhood and crime is statistically low. Thus, to the degree that impacts future criminal behavior is negligible. There’s also  confounding variables like genetics, since people who typically divorce may be aggressive, lack self control, and they may pass this onto their children. But I’ll leave genes for later in this article.

It’s important to note that Sowell (2005) and others have said that crime rose in blacks after the civil right acts when single-motherhood increased, but that relies on the assumption that blacks had intact families even before the 1960’s. Ruggles (1994) found that from the 1880 – 1960, blacks were 2-3x more likely to reside with one parent than whites were.


It is no surprise that poverty and crime are correlated, but the correlation between the two isn’t strong enough to say that it has a gigantic impact. On the individual level, studies do find that poor individuals commit more crimes (Ellis and McDonald 2001), but on the national level, it’s much trickier. Beaver, Ellis, and Wright (2009) found that most studies show that crime rises when the economy actually improves:

  • 17 found that crime rises when the economy improves
  • 10 found that crime rises when the economy is doing bad
  • 5 found no relationship between the two

Furthermore, Levitt (1999) shows how blacks in the same income level as whites still had a higher homicide rate than the white population. If poverty had a large impact on someone committing crime, then it should hold true across racial lines, but it doesn’t. Poor whites have a lower homicide than blacks in the top income percentile.


Since rich blacks have a higher homicide rate than poor whites, this may explain why rich black kids are more likely to go to jail than poor white kids (Ehrenfruend 2016).


Random Critical Analysis also has a good article on the poor link between poverty and crime.

Recently, Harriot (20162018)and Massie (2016) have objected to this by citing a 2014 BJS report that states: “Poor urban blacks (51.3 per 1,000) had rates of violence similar to poor urban whites (56.4 per 1,000).” Simply reverse searching this quote brings up a lot of people and articles using this as proof that poverty and crime are equal, or almost equal, across racial lines. Either they didn’t read the BJS report, or they’re lying. As the report states:

This report examines the violent victimization experiences of persons living in households at various levels of poverty, focusing on type of violence, victim’s race or Hispanic origin, and location of residence. It also examines the percentage of violent victimizations reported to the police by poverty level” (Harrell et al. 2014).

So the report is on VICTIMIZATION, not on how many people are committing crimes in general – just who is a victim of one.

To further suggest that crime and poverty have a poor link, Rubinstein (1992) found that murder and robbery tend to increase when employment increases, and Osragh  (1980) found that

“Unemployment may affect the crime rate, but even if it does, its general effect is too slight to be measured.” 

Raphael and Winter-Ember (2001)  found that the correlations between property crime and violent crime for unemployment were low, for poor it was statistically small, too.

Sariaslan et al. (2014) looked at over half a million Swedish people and found that people in poor SES were more likely to grow up to become criminals later in life when compared to those who grew up in higher SES. However, the same held true for the siblings of poor kids who’s families were becoming wealthier as they aged. This suggest that the likelihood of someone committing crime doesn’t magically go away as their SES increases. If better SES conditions did lower crime, then the studies outcomes should’ve been different.

Now, what if studies controlled for SES (socio-economic status) and race itself? Meaning that % black was put into a regression analysis to see which is a better predictor of crime? As far as I know, only two studies have done that. Unz (2013) looked at how well median income, population density, poverty, and % black correlated with crime rates of large American cities between 2006 and 2011. He found that % back was a stronger predictor of crime than any other variable tested. The Color of Crime (2005) looked at 50 U.S. cities and Washington D.C., they found that % black and Hispanic was a stronger predictor of crime than poverty, unemployment, and percentage of people who haven’t completed high school.  The correlations for were:

  • The correlation between black, Hispanic and violent crime: .81
  • Violent crime and % of people in poverty: .36
  • Violent crime and % unemployed: .35ommm

One also has to ask why blacks have a higher poverty rate than other racial groups.


Patten (2018)

The gap in wages seems damning, and it should since it also affects income. This leads to an income disparity between blacks and whites. Before we explain this, the earnings gap between blacks and whites isn’t that big. Herrnstein and Murray (1994) found that controlling for IQ made the earnings gap between blacks and whites shrink from thousands to a couple of hundreds.


The rest can be explained by race differences in behavior and attainment. Darity et al. (2017) found that blacks are more lazy than whites, but controlling for possible lying on the survey found that it goes away (but one would have to assume that they’re telling the truth about not being lazy). IQ plays a role too as IQ is a good predictor of someones future income; blacks also maybe in lower paying positions due to IQ correlating with future job status (Strenze 2006Herrnstein and Murray 1994).

Banfield (1974) argues that the primary cause of black poverty is because the lower class person lives from moment to moment– they are unable or unwilling to take account of the future or to control their impulses. Herrenstein and Wilson (1985) reported that poor blacks wanted to make a lot of money, but they left jobs if they were low paying while, ironically, saying that the work game is strong. Wilson (1997) also reported how blacks told ethnographers that their black unemployed friends were lazy. One person said that

“many black males don’t want to work, and when I say don’t want to work, I say don’t want to work hard. They want a real easy job, making big bucks.”

Low Self Esteem: 

One plausible factor that could impact crime is self-esteem, if one has lower self esteem, they’ll probably commit crimes. So blacks could have low self esteem, and it’ll lead them to a life of crime. Meir and Ladny (2017) found that there’s a small, negative but significant effect on crime and delinquency; but, the study itself suffers from a confounding variable like genetics, which I’ll again go into later. Regardless, blacks actually have a higher self esteem than whites (Bachman et al. 2012AAUW 1991; Parker et al. 1995Steele 1992), so to the degree that self-esteem itself impacts crime may not explain it all, or at least a good chunk of it.

Biological Factors

If you’ve made it this far, hopefully I’ve shown how some environmental factors and their impact on crime maybe statistically weak. Now we move onto those “confounding variables” I mentioned a few times. We’re perfectly fine to admit that height, weight, eye color, and a whole host of other things are influenced by genetics, but we don’t want to think that something like crime or intelligence is. Genetic explanations are often met with attacks such as “scientific racism.” I’ve heard leftist, who claim to be pro-science, say this; a good statement to this is:

“By referring to anyone who explores the biological basis of race as a ‘scientific racist’ and thus in essence demonizing them as racist, the academic left has managed to suppress almost all discussions of human differentiation.” – Nicholas Wade in Race, Genes and Human History 

The Biology of Crime & Trait Heritability

Before I cite the general literature, it’s important to know that there is no crime gene, there are only genes that lead to particular traits that can increase the likelihood of criminal behavior.


Tellegen, Lykken et al. (1988)Rushton, Fulker, et al. (1988)Plomin (1990)Bouchard (1984)

Here’s some, but not all, traits that can lead to criminal behavior and their heritability estimates.

Two things to notice here are aggression and impulsiveness. If these two traits, in terms of frequency, differ by racial groups, then it should help explain why blacks and Hispanics commit more crimes than both whites and Asians.

Aggression by Race: 

“To include Asians in our study, we turn to data gleaned from INTERPOL year books by J. Philippe Rushton (Society, Jan-Feb 1995). Rushton looked at 23 predominantly African countries, 41 Caucasian, and 12 Asian countries. Per 100,000 members of each group, he found ‘serious assault’ rates of 213, 63, and 27, respectively. Applied to these numbers, the method of thresholds yields a black – white mean difference for aggressiveness of 0.37 SD in perfect (if fortuitous) agreement with NCVS assault results, this despite that the INTERPOL threshold for serious assault is much higher than the NCVS standard. The white – Asian mean difference from these data is 0.24 SD. Of the three groups, Asians are the least aggressive, blacks the most. The ‘distance’ between blacks and whites is about 50 percent greater than between whites and Asians” (2000).


Based off of overall crime data, it’s safe to assume that blacks and Hispanics are more aggressive than whites and Asians. This fits in line with the fact that people see blacks as more threatening (APA 2017), and that

“Black and Hispanic couples are two to three times more likely to report male-to-female and female-to-male partner violence than white couples, and alcohol plays a role in the increased risk of violence, especially among black couples. (T 2018)

Rushton (1999) looked at studies looking at ethnic differences in temperament, and one study said that:

“Teachers reported better social adjustment and less hostility-aggression from Mongoloid children than from Caucasoid children, who in turn were better adjusted and less hostile than Negroid children.”

Race differences in aggression can also explain why blacks are more likely to attack whites (Color of Crime 2016), and why whites are more likely to be bullied at school by minorities (Farris 2006).

Self Control by Race:

 Self control, or time preference, is the ability to control yourself. So, once again, it would be asinine to deny that the races are equal in self control. If you lack self control then you won’t be able to restrain yourself from doing something bad. Mischel (19581961) found that black children had lower self control than matched white children. This matters because Moffitt et al. (2010) found that low self control predicts criminality and poverty even after controlling for IQ and parent SES.

Intelligence, Morality and Crime:

When it comes to criminality, IQ also plays a role. Herrenstein and Murray (1995) found that low IQ boys were more aggressive, and Lynn and Vanhanen (2012)  found a correlation between national IQ and national crime, and the size of the correlation varied from weak to strong depending on the study:


Morality also plays a role in crime. Based off of (Kohlberg 1981), Herrnstein and Wilson comment that “a person’s level of moral reasoning is correlated with intelligence, particularly verbal intelligence” (1985).

Given this, there should be no surprise that there are race differences in intelligence and morality.

Herrenstein and Murray (1994)introduced the general population to race differences in IQ: The general evidence shows:


As can been seen, there’s a 1 SD (15-point) gap between blacks and whites. Rushton and Jensen (2005) note:

Currently, the 1.1 standard deviation difference in average IQ between Blacks and Whites in the United States is not in itself a matter of empirical dispute. A meta-analytic review by Roth, Bevier, Bobko, Switzer, and Tyler (2001) showed it also holds for college and university application tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Graduate Record Examination, as well as for tests for job applicants in corporate settings and in the military.

The findings for race differences in intelligence have been found in Rushton and Jensen (2010)Rushton and Rushton (2001)Lynn (2011), and Lynn (2008). For blacks and whites specifically, the race differences in IQ have been replicated a lot (Levin 1997; Pesta and Poznanski 2008).

In the case of morality: when it comes to the golden rule, it’s followed by someone who  doesn’t take other people as simply resources to be used, and treats others as they’d want to be treated by them. Throughout most societies, this has been a fundamental piece to law and order. The golden rule, judging off of crime rates, seem to be followed largely by whites and Asians. The fact that less blacks follow this rule suggest an inability to do so due to race differences.

Those who follow the golden rule know that they should help others if they ever need help, but blacks are less likely to do this. Dahlstrom, Lacher, and Dahlstrom (1986) found that blacks are more likely to agree with statements like:

It is not hard for me to ask for help from my friends even though I can not return the favor.

This suggest that blacks view others as mere resources and can not help others when they need it. To further expand on the golden rule, treating others as you would want to be treated suggest that crime is not something that should be done, but blacks don’t see it this way. Judging by their crime rate and the types of crime they commit, blacks see these laws designed to help stop crime as unreasonable since they’ll still commit crime regardless; this shows why blacks also agree with the statement that:

A person shouldn’t be punished for breaking a law that he thinks is unreasonable.

Blacks have a different view of “right” and “wrong” when compared to Europeans and Mongoloids. Banfield (1974) notes that lower class people (predominately black) see right in terms of what can be gotten away with, instead of some universal or general principle that is worthy of choice. Numerous fights among black males are a result of “dissing,” the pursuit of dominance by disrespecting others — behavior that, if done to oneself, would be found intolerable. Anderson (1994) and Baumeister, Smart, and Boden (1996) report that in black street gangs

prestige and respect are gained by depriving others of them.

It’s safe to assume to those who follow the golden rule are more moral than those who don’t; this could explain race differences in morality of which correlate with IQ (Kohlberg 1981).

For a more in-depth read on race and IQ, click here. 

Thus, it seems that race differences in crime have more to do with race than the environment does (poverty, single-motherhood, etc.). While some may not believe what’s written here, I urge the reader to check the sources and validate them. If I am correct, and I assume I am, then future policy recommendations on curbing crime should recognize race differences.


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