What we know about the increase in murders in the United States in 2020


The murder rate in the United States rose 30% between 2019 and 2020 – the biggest single-year increase in more than a century, according to data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC). The results correspond to a separate table of the murder rate in the country released in September by the FBI.

The CDC tracks murders by analyzing information from death certificates. The FBI is tracking the murders by collecting information from thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. Despite their different methodologies, the two sources point to a sharp increase in the murder rate in the United States during the pandemic year of 2020, even though the rate itself remained well below the level of previous decades.

Below are some key points from the two new government datasets.

This analysis examines the increase in the murder rate in the United States between 2019 and 2020. It draws on murder statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FBI. In this analysis, the terms “murder” and “homicide” are used interchangeably.

The CDC murder data is based on information contained in death certificates and published in two online databases. Data for 2020 is from the Vital Statistics Rapid Release Mortality Dashboard, while data for previous years is from the WONDER database. Data for 2020 are provisional; data for previous years are final. All murder rates are age adjusted. Preliminary data for 2020 was not available for New Hampshire and Vermont at the time of this analysis. Historical data on nationwide murder rates are not directly comparable over the period 1968-2019 due to minor definition changes made by the CDC in accordance with the World Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. health.

The FBI murder data is based on information submitted to the agency by local police departments across the country and posted on the Crime Data Explorer website. FBI data is incomplete because not all agencies participate in the voluntary program every year, and some of those that participate do not provide complete data. FBI figures include manslaughter as well as murder.

The public opinion data cited here comes from Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2021 and 2020. Additional information on sample sizes, field dates and methodologies of these surveys can be found in the links included in this survey. to analyse.

The year-over-year increase in the U.S. murder rate in 2020 was the largest since at least 1905 – and possibly ever, according to provisional CDC data. (The final data should not differ significantly from the preliminary data.) There were 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people in the United States in 2020, up from six homicides per 100,000 people the year before. The increase in the murder rate in the country last year far exceeded the 20% increase measured in 2001, due to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

The increase in the murder rate last year may have even exceeded that measured in 1905, according to Dr. Robert Anderson, who oversees death statistics for the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Anderson noted earlier this month that the 1905 increase was at least in part due to more states submitting data to the National Death Registry, as opposed to an actual increase in murders.

The CDC has yet to release the total number of murders in the United States in 2020. But according to the FBI, there were 21,570 murders last year, up 29% from 16,669 in 2019 and the highest annual total since 1995. The numbers FBI includes non-negligent homicides as well as murders, but the agency’s numbers are incomplete because not all law enforcement agencies submit data.

Map showing murder rate increased in most states in 2020

Most states saw their murder rates increase between 2019 and 2020. At least eight states saw their murder rates increase by 40% or more last year, with the largest percentage increases in Montana (+ 84%), South Dakota (+ 81%), Delaware ( + 62%) and Kentucky (+ 61%), According to the CDC. Above-average increases also occurred in several heavily populated states, including New York (+ 47%), Pennsylvania (+ 39%), Illinois (+ 38%), Ohio (+ 38%) and California (+ 36 %). The CDC does not yet have annual data for New Hampshire and Vermont.

Firearms were involved in 77% of murders for which data was available in 2020, up from 73% in 2019, according to the FBI. As has long been the case, handguns were involved in the majority of gun murders, while rifles and shotguns were in much smaller proportions. A significant share of gun murders in 2020 involved an unknown type of firearm.

The percentage of solved murders – known as the “clearance rate” – rose from 61% in 2019 to 54% in 2020, according to the FBI. The kill elimination rate refers to the proportion of homicides that ended with the arrest, charge and removal of a suspect for prosecution, or due to “exceptional” circumstances such as the death of a suspect. suspect or a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution. The clearance rates are calculated based on the number of offenses firm in a given calendar year, even though the crime may have been committed in a previous year.

It is not yet clear why murders increased dramatically in 2020. Experts have pointed to a variety of potential causes, including the economic and societal changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the tensions that surfaced after the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota last year. But the exact reasons remain unclear.

FBI data, at least, shows that murder was not the only form of violent crime to have increased in the past year. The rate of aggravated assault increased nearly 12% between 2019 and 2020. And because aggravated assault is by far the most common type of violent crime tracked by the FBI, the overall rate of violent crime in the states United also increased in 2020, by around 5%. . Two other types of violent crime tracked by the FBI – rape and robbery – declined in 2020.

A line graph showing that the murder rate in the United States rose sharply in 2020, but remains lower than previous highs

Despite a sharp increase in 2020, the murder rate in the United States remains below levels of the early 1990s. The 2020 homicide rate of 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people was 22% lower than the 1991 rate (10 homicides per 100,000 people) and well below the rates recorded in much of the 1970s and 1980s, according to the CDC. As is more generally the case with violent and property crime rates, the murder rate in the United States has generally tended to decline over the past several decades, although 2020 has been an obvious exception.

Americans remain much less likely to die from murder than from other causes, including suicide and drug overdose. The murder rate in the United States in 2020 was 42% lower than the suicide rate (13.5 deaths per 100,000 people) and 71% lower than the drug overdose death rate (27.1 deaths per 100,000 people, in the third quarter of 2020), data from the CDC shows. As was the case with the murders, drug overdoses rose sharply in 2020.

Line graph showing about six in ten Americans now say violent crime is a really big deal

That’s not to say Americans aren’t concerned about violent crime. In a July 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 61% of American adults said violent crime is a very big problem in the country today – up from 41% in June 2020 and the highest percentage measured since at least fall 2018. In the July poll, Americans were more likely to describe violent crime as a very big problem than to say the same about five other questions asked in the survey: the federal budget deficit (50% said said it was a very big problem), climate change (47%), racism (45%), economic inequality (44%) and illegal immigration (43%).

Since June 2020, Americans have also become more supportive of increasing funding for local police in their communities. In a separate survey from the Center in September, 47% of American adults said they supported increased police funding in their area, up from 31% last June. Support reduce funding for local police increased from 25% to 15%.

John Gramlich is a writer / editor at the Pew Research Center.


Leave A Reply