Literature Review Of Determinants Of Homicide Rates Criminology Essay

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The study of the determinants of homicide rate creates interests not only for those criminalists but also economists, sociologists and policy-makers. Since Becker's (1986) study on crime creates the social concerns narrow down to homicide. Given many studies on this area, the literature review can give us a briefly idea about the determinants of homicide.

Many studies by economists and criminologists try to examine the relationship between capital punishment and homicide rate that whether the execution of capital punishment can be the deterrence of homicide. Sociologist Sellin(1959) first concluded that capital punishment does not deter homicide rate. His work set out the hypothesis of deterrence of capital punishment and compared the homicide rate between states where had capital punishment and where hadn't. Also he analyzed the state's homicide rate before abolished capital punishment and after. He found no evidence to conclude the execution of capital punishment does have deterrence on homicide rate.

In fact, an econometrician Ehrlich's(1975) study found capital punishment does deter homicide which contrasts to Sellin's work. His study used time-series data and cross-section data to do the analysis by different regression models. His finding received public attentions which prompted many new studies on this area but by different regression methods. Many scholars argued that the result of significance deterrence of capital punishment might be sensitive to other factors. A state originally with high homicide rate is more likely to have implementation of capital punishment, therefore capital punishment can be concerned to cause endogeneity problem when using time-series and cross-section analysis. Also people sometimes kill someone on an impulse and they normally do not consider rationally about future. These kinds of factors are associated with psychology such as emotional quotient and some of these factors are hard to determine. Therefore the association between homicide and capital punishment is still inconclusive.

The relationship between drug, alcohol and homicide has been explored in many studies. Some studies demonstrated that the use of drug and alcohol actually increase crime rate due to the effect of drug and alcohol, people are more violent and this motivates crime. A study in Miami suggests a positive correlation between use of drug and homicide rate. This study used the data in between 1978 to 1982 and total 1850 homicides in Miami, 24% were classified as drug related homicides. Another study by Wellford and Cronin (1999) examined about 800 homicides in 1994 and 1995 for four cities in United State also reported 1 in 4 of homicides were drug related. Lenke(1990) found the strong association between alcohol and violent behaviours in European states. His research suggested the decrease of availability of alcohol reduce violence. Parker and Cartmill(1998) used time series analysis also found the same association. A recent research work of alcohol and homicide published in Australia suggests that alcohol consumption increases homicide rate. This research included approximate 1600 homicides and nearly half of offenders were classified under the influence of alcohol related and of those. The key finding of this research is

"Alcohol is equally likely to be implicated in intimate-partner homicides as it is in all other homicides. [1] "

In earlier studies, some homicides which are drug related or alcohol related might not be reported and this influences the accuracy of those studies. By involving other factors, many victims and offenders of many drug related homicides are black male and under the stress of racism and other factors such as poverty. Here the argument is that drug is an indirect cause of homicides. Also some arguments against the association of drug, alcohol and homicides, if someones intent to kill a person, they will act no matter of with or without alcohol. Such in these cases, alcohol is not the main cause of homicide and it maybe just a motive force for people attempt to murder. Reduce the use of alcohol can decrease violent behaviors, but it cannot vanish the killing motive of people who attempt to commit murder.

Gun is prevalent in the US and approximate 55% of homicides during 2005 to 2008 were involving firearms. There is a dramatic increase in production of firearms. There were approximate 3.84 million of firearms manufactured for United States used in 1999, and it increased to 5.36 million in 2009 [2] (total manufactured minus exports). This statistic shows us firearms become more prevalence in US society. Most of us will not deny the point that more guns associate more crimes. According to the statistic of England and Wales, firearms-related crimes increased from approximate 14 thousand in 1998 to 18 thousand in 2007 due to the prevalence of firearms use in the world [3] . Many empirical works demonstrated the positive association of gun and crime. However, this paper is focusing on homicide and a question comes out that does it mean more guns associate more homicide? A recent study released by Harvard School of Public Health found that an increase in household firearm ownership associate a higher homicide rate in the US by controlling other factors such as other crime activity and unemployment rate [4] . This study is done by using cross sectional data. However, there are some arguments against this conclusion. First, people intent to kill someone can use another substitution to achieve the goal even they have no guns. Fewer guns lead to fewer gun homicides, but it does not mean to lower the homicide rate. Second, people live in an area with higher homicide rate may tend to acquire more firearm for self protection. Therefore firearm ownership may be an endogenous variable when estimating its effect on homicide rate. This leads to a bias result of association of firearms and homicide rate. Such arguments, many studies have different views on it and the relationship between homicide and firearms is still ambiguous.

Other factors such as races, population in urban areas and age are also found to be associated with homicide rate in some studies. According to the statistic from Bureau of Justice Statistics, homicide victimization rate for blacks was 37.1 per 100,000 black population in 1976 which was 7 times higher than whites. Until 2005, the ratio of black and white victimization rate was still 6 to 1. The ratio for black homicide offending rate per 100,000 black population was even higher 10 times higher than whites in 1976 and the ratio decreased to 8 to 1 in 2005. The blacks are more likely to kill and to be killed than whites. Balkwell(1990) used 150 SMSAs (Sandard metropolitan statistic areas) to analyze the racial inequality and homicide rate. He found a very strong association between racial inequality and homicide rate even controlling for other factors. This suggests an area with a high percentage of black has more homicides in relative to others. This may because of the problem of racism under the racial inequality or may because blacks are considered to be more violent than other races.

Population in urban area is also a consideration of effecting homicide rate. An analysis of homicide in Alabama found that urban dwellers are high risk to be killed. This may because urban dwellers are considered to be wealthier than those live in rural areas and they are more likely to be involved with interest conflicts therefore be the targets of homicides. But we might begin to think, urban areas where have more homicides occurred might because individuals are centralized together. More population lives in an area and therefore more homicides. Many studies demonstrated that population in urban is associated with crime rate. However, this may not be associated with homicide rate.