Friday, August 15, 2014

Ferguson and remarkable disparities in people killed by police-- by race and especially by age

Check out the charts toward the bottom of this link. Click on #3-- the bar graph with numbers on "male victims of police shootings by race", divided into White (including Hispanic-- I looked that up at the source of the data), Black, and other. The most interesting part is that the data are also divided by age, using six ranges (under 20, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, over 60).

The data are incomplete, but seemingly not biased in a way that profoundly changes the results. If so, a few, fascinating observations from the data:

-The proportion of blacks killed by the police (vs. all people killed by the police) drops dramatically as age increases, from 56% to 16%.
-The proportion of blacks in the population drops as well, but much more modestly-- from 15% of the population for younger people down to 9% of the people for older folks. (As an aside, this is one way you can infer that Social Security is a particularly brutal kick in the shorts to African-Americans.)

Why are older African-Americans less likely to be killed? Many possibilities:
-Older blacks understand how to negotiate the police better (but are unable to pass those lessons along to the youth).
-Older blacks are less likely to to cause trouble and have encounters with the police.
-Police engage in age discrimination-- perhaps in tandem with racial discrimination. This discrimination could be "personal" (cops don't like young people) or "statistical" (based on perceived or correct stereotypes).
-In any case, race discrimination alone cannot explain these numbers, given that the numbers vary so much with age.


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