“Why Have Homicide Rates Gone up Since 2015? A Historical Perspective”: Dr. Randolph Roth

Thursday, March 30 | 1 p.m. ET

Dr. Randolph Roth, a Professor of History and Sociology at Ohio State University, is the author of American Homicide.

Scholars have been puzzled by the rise in homicides since 2015. Many theories that have been put forth have merit, but most take a short-term view of why the rate of violent crime has changed in recent years. 

Join Professor Roth for HFG’s next Speaker Series talk where he takes a longer, historical view of the reasons why rates of violent crime change over time—a view that focuses on the degree to which modern and early modern societies have been successful at nation building. As he suggests, the fundamental requisites for low levels of violence are political stability, legitimate government, a legitimate social hierarchy, and fellow feeling and a sense of kinship among citizens.

Roth received a 2013 Distinguished Scholar (then called Research Grant) award from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. His project was titled Child Murder in America.

Watch video below

About American Homicide from Harvard University Press: 

In American Homicide, Randolph Roth charts changes in the character and incidence of homicide in the U.S. from colonial times to the present. Roth argues that the United States is distinctive in its level of violence among unrelated adults—friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

America was extraordinarily homicidal in the mid-seventeenth century, but it became relatively non-homicidal by the mid-eighteenth century, even in the slave South; and by the early nineteenth century, rates in the North and the mountain South were extremely low. But the homicide rate rose substantially among unrelated adults in the slave South after the American Revolution; and it skyrocketed across the United States from the late 1840s through the mid-1870s, while rates in most other Western nations held steady or fell. That surge—and all subsequent increases in the homicide rate—correlated closely with four distinct phenomena: political instability; a loss of government legitimacy; a loss of fellow-feeling among members of society caused by racial, religious, or political antagonism; and a loss of faith in the social hierarchy. Those four factors, Roth argues, best explain why homicide rates have gone up and down in the United States and in other Western nations over the past four centuries, and why the United States is today the most homicidal affluent nation.

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