April 20, 2007

An Aside on the Hazards of Comparing International Statistics

Marc Comtois

"Tom Paine" takes the Brits to task for their "smug" and "gleeful" take on the recent Virginia Tech massacre. He also makes this acute observation about comparing British and American homicide rates:

Britain's only statistical advantage in the field of crime is that our homicide rate is lower. That's largely because we only count convictions, not unsolved crimes or those plea-bargained down to something else. America counts all reported offences, including those that turn out to be justifiable homicides (e.g. self-defence). In our statistics, we would (at best) have counted the V-Tech killings as a single murder. We might not actually show them at all, if they were found to have been committed by a mentally-disturbed person (see Home Office Statistical Bulletin 02/07). America's statistics reflect the total number of victims.
We know that there are lies, damn lies and statistics and we should keep in mind that the axiom is applicable internationally, too.