Unexpectedly Intriguing!
23 March 2011

How does the United States and Canada really compare to each other when it comes to the murderous impulses of each nation's population? And how does it really compare when we take the nations' primary racial and ethnic differences into account?

Let's answer the first question by tapping the data that applies for the year 2006, which in addition to being a pretty typical year for Canadian homicides, is also the most recent year in which Canada conducted a full census of its population. Our first chart reveals what we found when we dug into both Canadian and U.S. homicide statistics for that year:

Homicides for Canada and the United States, 2006

In 2006, Canada saw 606 homicides, while the United States experienced 19,160. Let's next take the relative sizes of each nation's population into account by finding the number of homicides in each country for each 100,000 people.

Homicides per 100,000 People for Canada and the United States, 2006

We find then that Canada saw 1.94 homicides for each 100,000 people in its population, while the United States saw 6.42 homicides for each 100,000 people in its population. These figures represent an apples-to-oranges kind of comparison however, because they do not take the racial and ethnic makeup of each nation into account.

That's important because of the pattern we found in the United States for who kills who. Here, we found that the vast majority of the offenders in homicides are of the same race as their victims. Because the United States has very large minority populations (blacks and Hispanics) which are largely absent in Canada, we must exclude the numbers of homicides of black and Hispanic victims from the U.S. totals to make a much more accurate apples-to-apples kind of comparison of U.S. homicides with Canadian homicides.

The chart below reveals what we found when we compared Canadian homicides with the portions of the U.S. population that most closely resembles the Canadian population:

Homicides per 100,000 People for Canada and Portion of U.S. Population Most Demographically Similar to Canadians, 2006

After comparing just the portions of the U.S. population that is most similar to the makeup of the Canadian population, we find that the U.S. sees approximately one additional homicide per 100,000 people than does Canada, with 2.87 homicides per 100,000 people compared to Canada's 1.94 homicides per 100,000 people.

To put that in perspective, if Canada had the demographically-adjusted U.S. homicide rate of 2.87 per 100,000, it would see an additional 292 homicides per year. Meanwhile, if the portion of the U.S. population that most closely resembles the demographics of the Canadian population had the Canadian homicide rate of 1.94 per 100,000, the United States would see roughly 2,180 fewer homicides per year in this portion of its total population.

Data Sources

Statistics Canada. CANSIM, Table 253-0002 and Homicide Survey, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. 26 October 2010. Accessed 20 March 2011.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control. WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports, 1999-2007. Accessed 20 March 2011.

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