Unexpectedly Intriguing!
10 January 2013

Over the holidays, we updated and corrected our original analysis of the rate of assaults in both the United States and Canada. It turns out that one of our original charts had only shown the number of Level 2 and 3 assaults for Canada rather than all nonfatal, nonsexual assaults and our calculation of the total assault rate for Canada was also off by about 30 assaults per 100,000 Canadians.

Today, we're going to revisit that analysis and then take things one step further and do a more direct comparison of the rate of assaults between the populations of the two nations by extracting the assault rate data for the portion of the U.S. population that is most demographically similar to the entire population of Canada.

First, let's take a look at the total number of nonfatal, nonsexual assaults for the entire populations of both nations in 2006 in the following chart:

Nonfatal, Nonsexual Assaults for Canada and the United States, 2006

Here, we see that Canadians experienced some 253,704 assaults in 2006, while Americans recorded 1,598,706 nonfatal, nonsexual assaults in the same year.

Next, because the size of the two nations' populations is so different, let's compare the rate of assaults for each 100,000 people in both nations in our next chart. Note that the U.S. data is based upon the entire population, include the nation's very large black and Hispanic sub-populations, which are nearly absent in Canada (Canadian blacks make up about 2% of that nation's population, while the percentage share of Hispanics in Canada make up less than 1% of Canada's population.):

Nonfatal, Nonsexual Assaults per 100,000 People for Canada and the United States, 2006

We find that Canada's total assault rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 802.23, while the U.S. total assault rate for each 100,000 Americans is 535.80, as Canadians are considerably more likely to become victims of assault than are Americans.

Originally, that was as far as we took our analysis, because of a quirk with the U.S. data - we weren't directly able to compare the rate of assault between Canada and the portion of the U.S. population most demographically similar to Canada's population because a very large fraction of the data from the U.S. WISQARS database doesn't directly identify the U.S. demographic group into which assault victims fall. The table below illustrates what we found for 2006:

U.S. EthnicityAssaults (2006)Population (2006)Assault Rate (2006)
White, Non-Hispanic534,789199,200,396268.47
Black, Non-Hispanic431,35839,857,1071,082.26
Other, Non-Hispanic70,38016,853,716417.59
Not Stated372,997N/AN/A

Those 372,997 assaults where the race or ethnicity of the victims was not stated represents over 23% of all nonfatal, nonsexual assaults in the United States and is the reason why we didn't break the data down for our international comparison previously. But, it has occurred to us that we can allocate those assaults into the other demographic categories reported in the WISQARS database by the frequency of assaults for those categories.

For example, the number of known white, non-Hispanic assault victims represent 43.6% of the total number of assault victims where the race or ethnicity of the victims has been recorded, so it might be reasonable to allocated 43.6% of the number of assault victims whose demographic details are not stated into that category. And we can do similar math for the remaining categories - our next table reveals the results of that process.

U.S. EthnicityAssaults (2006)Population (2006)Assault Rate (2006)
White, Non-Hispanic697,531199,200,396350.17
Black, Non-Hispanic562,62539,857,1071,411.61
Other, Non-Hispanic91,79716,853,716544.67
White + Other, Non-Hispanic789,329216,054,112365.34

In this table, we've combined the totals for the "White, non-Hispanic" and "Other, non-Hispanic" portions of the U.S. population, which represents the portion of the U.S. population that is the most demographically similar to the entire population of Canada. In doing that, we find that this portion of the U.S. population experiences less than half the rate of assault per 100,000 members of the population as do Canadians, with 365.34 nonfatal, nonsexual assaults per 100,000 Americans as compared to 802.23 per 100,000 Canadians. That difference is visualized in our final chart:

Nonfatal, Nonsexual Assaults per 100,000 People for Canada and the Portion of the United States Population Most Demographically Similar to the Canadian Population, 2006

Put another way, Canadians are victimized by assault a little over twice as often as the Americans most demographically similar to them are, with 337 more nonfatal, nonsexual assaults per 100,000 inhabitants occurring in Canada.

By contrast, we already found that this same population experiences just one less homicide per 100,000 than do their demographic peers in the U.S., which might be attributed to Canada's more restrictive gun control laws.

So the question for gun control advocates in the U.S. comes down to this - would you trade that one less homicide per 100,000 for an additional 337 assaults per 100,000 (if we limit ourselves to only considering crimes that involve the risk of direct physical injury or death for the victims)?

Because that would appear to be the trade off that Canadians have made for their more restrictive gun control laws. All on top of having more brutal murders that increasingly involve other kinds of deadly weapons.

Data Sources

Juristat. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Statistics Canada - Catalogue No. 85-002, Vol. 28, No. 7. Crime Statistics in Canada, 2007. Table 2. Selected Criminal Code Incidents, by most serious offence, Canada, 2006 and 2007. Accessed 1 January 2013.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control. WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports. Accessed 1 January 2013.

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