Murder Rate In The US: What Is The US Homicide Rate?

Murder Rate In The US - US Homicide Rate - US Murder Rate - American Homicide Rates

What is the murder rate in the US? 

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • murder statistics
  • historical trends in murder rates
  • how the data for murder rates gets collected
  • murder rates by region, state, sex, race, and age
  • factors contributing to high and low murder rates
  • how to reduce the murder rates in the US

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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Murder Rate Statistics

  • Last year, there were an estimated 16,936 murders in the US (FBI Uniform Crime Report).
  • Last year, the overall US murder rate was 5.04 per 100,000 people.
  • The U.S. murder rate in 2020 was 6.52 per 100,000 people, which was a 28.64% increase from 2019​​.
  • The U.S. murder rate in 2019 was 5.07 per 100,000 people, a 1.19% increase from 2018​​.
  • The U.S. murder rate in 2018 was 5.01 per 100,000 people, a 5.9% decrease from 2017​.
  • In 2022, homicides fell about 4% according to a report from the Council on Criminal Justice​​.
  • Firearms were responsible for the majority (68%) of homicides.
  • The highest rate of murder was in the District of Columbia (16.5 per per 100,000 people).
  • The lowest rate of homicide was in New Hampshire, with a rate of 1.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
  • Lsat year, 49.2% of homicide victims were African American, 25.5% were Hispanic, and 17.2% were White.
  • 66.7% of homicides were due to arguments between two or more people.
  • 1,494 homicides were committed by an intimate partner.
  • The majority (63.0%) of homicide victims were killed with a firearm.
  • 63% of firearm-related homicides were gang-related.

Historical Perspective

This section covers the history of murder rates in the United States. 

We look at how these rates have changed over time. 

We focus on times when murder rates rose or fell significantly. 

We examine key historical events and their impact on crime rates. 

This gives us a clear picture of the role of society, politics, and the economy in crime trends over the last century.

Read More: How Many Murders Go Unsolved

Overview of Historical Trends

In the United States, crime rates, including murder rates, have varied over time. 

Here is a brief overview:

  • In the 1700s, the homicide rate was over 30 per 100,000 people, but it fell to under 20 by 1800 and to under 10 by 1900.
  • After World War II, crime rates increased, peaking from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Violent crime, including murder, nearly quadrupled between 1960 and its peak in 1991​.
  • From the 1990s onwards, crime rates began to fall steadily. The decline was significant by the late 1990s and continued into the early 2000s.
  • After a slight rise in crime rates around 2015, a decrease was seen in 2018 and 2019. The murder/homicide rate for 2018 was 5.01, a 5.9% decline from 2017, and for 2019 it was 5.07, a slight increase from 2018​.
  • However, in 2020, the murder/homicide rate increased significantly to 6.52, a 28.64% increase from 2019, largely attributed to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter slightly increased to 6.9 cases per 100,000 in 2021​.
  • In the first half of 2022, homicides decreased by 2% compared to the same period in 2021. However, they were still 39% higher than in the same time period of 2019​.
  • In the first quarter of 2023, homicide rates rose by an average of roughly 10% in 45 of the most populated U.S. cities compared to the same period in 2021​.

Despite the recent increases, the overall crime rate, including murder, remains significantly below the peak seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

It’s important to note that these rates can vary greatly by region and city.

Read More: How Many Guns Does The Average American Own

Significant Historical Events

Here’s a brief summary of the impact of various historical events on murder rates in the US:

  • Prohibition (1920s-1930s): The homicide rate continued its previous upward trajectory during Prohibition, reaching its highest point in 1933, the final year of Prohibition, with 9.7 homicides per 100,000 people.
  • Great Depression (1930s): The homicide rate initially rose during the early years of the Great Depression but then started to decrease as the economy showed signs of recovery. By the end of the decade, the homicide rate had fallen to 6.4 per 100,000 people.
  • ‘War on Drugs’ period (1980s-1990s): The homicide rate increased during this period, peaking at 9.8 per 100,000 people in 1991. It then began to decrease, falling to 6.3 per 100,000 people by 1998.
  • Post-9/11 era: The homicide rate continued to decrease after 2001, reaching a low of 4.44 per 100,000 people in 2014. The rate then increased slightly in the following years, reaching 6.52 per 100,000 people in 2020.

Read More: What Are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Degree Murders

Understanding The Murder Data

The main sources of murder rate data in the United States are:

  • the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program 
  • the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS)

The FBI’s UCR program gathers crime data from law enforcement agencies across the country. 

It collects information about crimes reported to these agencies and about arrests made.

The NVSS collects data about deaths in the U.S., including deaths due to murder. 

It gets this data from death certificates.

Both of these systems may have biases. 

For example, not all crimes are reported to the police, so the UCR data might undercount the actual number of crimes. 

Similarly, the cause of death on a death certificate might be incorrect, which could affect NVSS data.

Read More: How Many People Are Murdered In The US Every Day

Data Collection

  • The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program collects data on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies across the United States. It includes data on murder rates.
  • The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) collects and publishes data on vital events, including deaths. This can include data on homicide deaths.
  • Both of these sources gather data from local and state agencies. The FBI’s UCR program relies on voluntary reporting from law enforcement agencies.
  • Biases can occur in data collection. For example, not all crimes are reported to the police, which can lead to undercounts. Also, different agencies might classify or report crimes differently.

Read More: Homicide vs Murder

Interpreting the Data

  • Rates per 100,000 people are a common way to present crime data. This allows for comparison across different population sizes. For example, a murder rate of 5 per 100,000 means that, in a given year, 5 murders occurred for every 100,000 people in the population.
  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter both involve the intentional killing of another person. The main difference is that murder usually involves premeditation, while non-negligent manslaughter does not.
  • “Cleared cases” refers to crimes that have been solved in some way, such as through an arrest or the identification of a suspect who cannot be apprehended. This doesn’t mean that someone has been convicted of the crime. “Cases with an arrest” specifically refers to situations where a person has been arrested in relation to the crime.

Regional Analysis

Let’s look at the murder rates by state and by region. 

Read More: What Is Attempted Manslaughter

Geographic Differences

Last year, the murder rate in the US by each region was:

  • the South: 8.8 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • the West: 5.0 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • the Midwest: 4.7 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • the Northeast: 2.1 per 100,000 inhabitants

Murder Rates By State

Here are the states with the highest murder rates as of last year:

  • Louisiana: Louisiana has the highest murder rate in the U.S. with 14.4 murders per 100,000 residents.
  • Mississippi: Mississippi has the second highest murder rate in the U.S. with 12.7 murders per 100,000 residents.
  • Alaska: Alaska has the third highest murder rate in the U.S. with 11.8 murders per 100,000 residents.
  • New Mexico: New Mexico has the fourth highest murder rate in the U.S. with 11.1 murders per 100,000 residents.
  • Alabama: Alabama has the fifth highest murder rate in the U.S. with 10.6 murders per 100,000 residents.

Here are the states with the lowest murder rates as of last year:

  • New Hampshire – 1.5 per 100,000 people
  • Maine – 2.9 per 100,000 people
  • Massachusetts – 3.3 per 100,000 people
  • Pennsylvania – 3.3 per 100,000 people
  • Idaho – 3.7 per 100,000 people
  • Vermont – 3.7 per 100,000 people
  • Rhode Island – 4.2 per 100,000 people
  • Oregon – 4.4 per 100,000 people
  • Hawaii – 4.5 per 100,000 people
  • Utah – 4.5 per 100,000 people

There are several factors that contribute to differences in murder rates by state. 

  • Socio-Economic Conditions: States with higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and lower levels of education tend to have higher crime rates, including murder. For instance, Louisiana and Mississippi, which have some of the highest murder rates, also have high poverty rates.
  • Law Enforcement Policies: The effectiveness of law enforcement and the criminal justice system can impact murder rates. Strong policing and robust judicial systems can deter crime.
  • Population Density: Urban areas with high population density often have higher crime rates. However, this is not always the case as evidenced by states like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, which have large urban areas but relatively low murder rates.
  • Gun Control Laws: States with stricter gun control laws often have lower murder rates. For example, Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and one of the lowest murder rates.
  • Cultural Factors: Regional cultural differences can also contribute to varying crime rates. Some regions may have cultural norms that are more prone to violence or have higher acceptance of it.
  • Social Services: Availability and access to social services like mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and domestic violence resources can also influence murder rates.

Read More: Gun Violence Statistics

Demographic Analysis

This section focuses on the demographic analysis of US murder rates. 

We look at how factors like age, gender, race, and income level impact these rates. 

Our study covers many decades. 

This allows us to see how changes in the US population affect murder rates over time. 

Understanding these trends is important. 

It gives us a clear picture of how social, economic, and demographic elements work together to shape violent crime. 

Policymakers, law enforcement, and sociologists can use this knowledge. 

It can help them tackle and lessen the underlying causes of violent crime.

Read More: How Many Innocent People Have Been Executed

Age and Sex

Age GroupNumber of Offenders% of Total
Infant (<1)00.00%
1 to 410.00%
5 to 840.02%
9 to 12180.09%
13 to 166042.88%
17 to 191,8368.75%
20 to 243,02514.42%
25 to 292,57512.27%
30 to 341,7898.53%
35 to 391,3376.37%
40 to 449354.46%
45 to 495342.55%
50 to 544522.15%
55 to 594071.94%
60 to 642341.12%
65 to 691200.57%
70 to 74610.29%

Several factors may contribute to differences in the number of murder offenders across different age groups:

  • Developmental Factors: Younger people, particularly teenagers and young adults, are still developing emotionally and cognitively. This can lead to impulsivity, poor judgment, and a higher susceptibility to peer pressure, all of which can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky or criminal behavior.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Young adults, particularly those in their late teens and early twenties, often face significant life stressors, such as the pressure to find employment or the struggle with financial independence. These stressors, particularly when compounded by other factors such as lack of education or living in a high-crime area, can increase the risk of criminal behavior.
  • Peer And Social Influence: Peers and social networks can play a significant role in shaping behavior, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood. Exposure to violence or criminal behavior within one’s peer group or community can normalize such behavior and increase the likelihood of engaging in it.
  • Substance Use: Substance use can lead to impaired judgment, increased impulsivity, and heightened aggression. The use of alcohol and drugs is higher among certain age groups, particularly young adults, which can contribute to higher rates of violent behavior, including murder.
  • Availability Of Opportunities: Older individuals may have more established lives, including stable employment and family responsibilities, which can decrease the likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior. In contrast, younger individuals may have more free time and less supervision, providing more opportunities for engaging in risky behavior.

Let’s look at the most recent murder rate by gender data from the FBI.

The number of male and female offenders involved in murders in the US is as follows:

  • Male offenders were involved in 4,191 murders.
  • Female offenders were involved in 1,647 murders.

Male offenders are involved in a significantly higher number of murders compared to female offenders​.

Read More: How Many People Are Murdered Each Year?

Racial and Ethnic Differences

For this, we looked at the data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR).

Here is the info we found on the murder rates by race and ethnicity in the US:

  • The total number of White victims was 3,299, with 2,594 of these murders committed by White offenders and 566 by Black or African American offenders.
  • The total number of Black or African American victims was 2,906, with 2,574 of these murders committed by Black or African American offenders and 246 by White offenders.
  • The total number of victims of other races (including American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander) was 247, with 138 of these murders committed by offenders of the same race category, 57 by White offenders, and 40 by Black or African American offenders.
  • The total number of Hispanic or Latino victims was 987, with 759 of these murders committed by White offenders and 177 by Black or African American offenders.
  • The total number of victims who were not Hispanic or Latino was 4,205, with 2,298 of these murders committed by Black or African American offenders and 1,681 by White offenders​1​.

The causes behind these differences in murder rates are complex and multifaceted.

They often influenced by a myriad of societal, economic, and cultural factors. 

Some of these factors may include:

  • socioeconomic status
  • education levels
  • employment opportunities
  • community environment

Factors Contributing to Murder Rates in the US

Let’s look at what contributes to the homicide rates in America, like: 

  • socioeconomic factors
  • mental health
  • substance abuse
  • gun ownership and laws

Socioeconomic Factors

Let’s look at the correlation between poverty and murder rates.

The relationship between poverty and crime, including murder, is well-documented. 

Areas with high poverty rates often experience higher crime rates.

This includes higher incidences of violent crime like murder. 

There are several reasons for this correlation:

  • Resource Scarcity: High poverty means resources are scarce, which can lead to conflicts that result in violence.
  • Desperation: Individuals in poverty might be driven to illegal activities out of desperation, particularly if they perceive few legal opportunities available to them.
  • Social Strain: A theory called “strain theory” suggests that social structures within society may pressure citizens to commit crime. High levels of poverty increase this strain, resulting in higher crime rates.

Let’s look at the impact of education level on murder rates.

Education also plays a significant role in crime rates. 

Areas with lower levels of education have higher crime rates for several reasons:

  • Lack of Opportunities: Low educational attainment can result in limited job opportunities, leading to higher rates of poverty and crime.
  • Knowledge and Skills: Education also equips people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions and potentially avoid risky behaviors that might lead to criminal activity.
  • Social Capital: Education often provides social connections and networks that can help individuals navigate challenges and find resources and support.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Let’s look at the connection between:

  • mental health
  • substance abuse
  • violent crime

Mental health disorders and substance abuse are associated with an increased risk of committing violent crimes.

Several factors contribute to this correlation:

  • Impaired Judgment: Both mental illness and substance abuse can impair an individual’s judgment, potentially increasing the likelihood of violent behavior.
  • Self-Medication: Individuals with untreated mental health issues might turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, which can increase the risk of violent crime.
  • Dual Diagnosis: Having both a substance abuse problem and a mental health disorder—a condition known as dual diagnosis—can greatly increase an individual’s likelihood of becoming involved in violent crime.

Let’s look at the role of healthcare availability in mitigating these factors.

Accessible and affordable healthcare can significantly help in mitigating these factors:

  • Mental Health Services: Access to mental health services can ensure that mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated before they escalate into violent behavior.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment: Similarly, access to substance abuse treatment can help individuals recover from addiction, reducing the risk of violence.
  • Preventive Care: Access to preventive care can help identify risk factors and provide early interventions, reducing the potential for violent crime.

Gun Ownership and Laws

Let’s look at the correlation between gun ownership rates and murder rates.

The link between gun ownership rates and murder rates stirs much debate. 

Some studies suggest a direct relationship. 

They claim areas with more guns see more murders. 

This is because guns can intensify conflicts and increase the chances of deadly violence.

Let’s look at the impact of different gun laws on murder rates.

The effect of gun laws on murder rates is complex and widely debated. 

Supporters of tough gun laws say they lower gun violence. 

They believe it makes it harder for potential criminals to get guns. 

But, critics argue that these laws mainly disarm honest citizens. 

This, they say, might make them easier targets for criminals.

Research shows mixed findings on this topic. 

Some studies link stricter gun laws with fewer murders. 

Others find no significant link. 

Factors like law enforcement and cultural views on guns can influence this relationship. 

These factors can shape how gun laws impact murder rates.

Mitigating Murder Rates In The US

Next, let’s look at how we can mitigate the risk of higher murder rates. 

Law Enforcement Strategies

Three main law enforcement strategies can help reduce murder rates. 

These are community policing, hotspot policing, and problem-oriented policing.

Community policing involves the police building relationships with the community. 

They work together to solve problems and reduce crime. 

Research shows that this strategy can reduce tensions between police and communities. 

This can lead to lower crime rates.

Hotspot policing focuses on areas with high crime rates. 

The police increase their presence and activities in these areas. 

Studies show that this can deter criminals and reduce crime.

Problem-oriented policing involves identifying specific issues causing crime. 

Police then work to solve these problems. 

Research suggests that this strategy can be effective in reducing crime, including murders.

Prevention Programs

Prevention programs can also help mitigate murder rates. 

They include school-based programs, community programs, and rehabilitation programs.

School-based programs educate students about the consequences of crime. 

They also teach conflict resolution skills. 

Research shows that these programs can reduce crime rates among young people.

Community programs involve residents in crime prevention. 

They often include activities that provide alternatives to crime. 

Many studies find these programs effective in reducing crime.

Rehabilitation programs work with offenders. 

They aim to prevent re-offending by providing skills and support. 

According to research, these programs can lower crime rates by reducing recidivism.

Legal and Policy Changes

Changes in sentencing laws and criminal justice reform can impact murder rates. 

For instance, longer sentences for violent crimes can deter potential offenders. 

At the same time, criminal justice reforms can address systemic issues. 

These include biases in the system that may contribute to crime.

Future policy changes could further help reduce murder rates. 

This could involve changes in gun laws or further reforms in the criminal justice system. 

For example, policies could focus on better rehabilitation and integration of former offenders. 

This would help reduce the likelihood of them committing further crimes.







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