Monday, November 21, 2005

Most Dangerous US City - Numbers Behind the Numbers

Once again, Camden, New Jersey has been named the nation's most dangerous city by Morgan Quitno Press. The determination of the most dangerous US cities, which also includes Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Baltimore in the top 10, is based on per capital crime statistics.

So what do these cities have in common demographically? More importantly, how do they differ from the safest city in the US - Round Rock, TX?

One answer that might seem obvious is that all 5 of these "dangerous" cities have black populations greater than 50%. Is it all that simple - are blacks as a group likely to commit more crimes than their white or hispanic counterparts? I'd venture a guess: of course not.

Looking at other demographics in these 5 cities reveals a few commonalities:
  • Single moms in all 5 cities makeup more than 23% of all families. In Camden, 34% of all children are raised by single mothers. In contrast, only 10.7% of families are led by single mothers in Round Rock.
  • At least 23% of each of the cities' populations are comprised of people with no high school degree (or equivalent). Over 30% of the populations in Detroit and Baltimore have no high school degree, and a staggering 49% of Camden citizens have no high school degree. In Round Rock, only 10% of the population has failed to obtain a high school diploma.
  • Although nearly 40% of all Camden citizens speak a language other than English at home, less than 10% do so in Baltimore and Atlanta. In addition, more than 20% of families in Round Rock speak a language other than English at home, so it seems that cultural/language assimilation plays little or no bearing in crime rate.
  • At least 38% of all families live on less than $25,000 per year in the 5 dangerous cities. In Camden, 51.9% of the population falls into the sub $25K category. Only 11.9% of Round Rock families live on less than $25K per year.

So let's add this up and try to draw a conclusion based on this small set of demographic data. Our dangerous cities are all charactized by black populations roughly 5 times the national average. But these cities also suffer from low educational achievement, a breakdown of traditional families, and poverty. This seems to point limited economic opportunities, as well as underachievement in the black community that is fueled by a culture of dependence and irresponsibility. How can we be sure that limited economic opportunities aren't solely to blame? By looking at high school graduation rates and single motherhood - which are two critical factors completely independent of local economic prosperity.

Am I claiming that blacks have some innate tendency to be dependent and irresponsible? Of course not. My experience has been that blacks are as competent, hard working, and diligent as anybody. The difficulties arise when local communities are faced with adversity. Do they rise up and overcome, or do they believe that their problems should be fixed by others? Taken a step further, do they believe that their problems can only be fixed by others? I would argue that any group of people faced with major economic obstacles who believes that they cannot remove those obstacles on their own will stop trying. What is truly sad is that so many young American kids stop trying before they even graduate from high school. Kids as young as 16 are basically opting out, falling for the lie that a high school degree will not help take them where they want to go.

The real issue is this victim culture, and once again, we're back to black social "leaders", such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as black cultural "leaders". Any community consistently fed a message that most of their problems are other people's fault, that the government owes them a decent living, and that thug living is cool, will undoubtedly suffer.

Here's hoping and praying that a new generation of black leaders emerge - leaders who preach educational achievement, independence, personal accountability, and entrepreneurship. After all, Bill Cosby can't do it alone.

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