The Kill Ratio

I was aware that declining rates of “intimate” homicide have been a significant, though oft-overlooked, component of the declining murder rate in the United States. Now I see at sociological images that there’s an interesting gender twist to this:

My Internet search for explanations was cursory at best, but it turned up nothing. I have only two ideas:

1. Men Behaving Better. Men have stopped doing those things that made women want to kill them.

I offered this explanation to two women in the Justice Studies department here. They rejected it out of hand and without comment. (Maybe they didn’t like the blaming-the-victim assumption: if women kill men, it’s because of what men do. Or maybe they were using a convenience sample of anecdotal data on men’s behavior.). One of these women, Lisa Anne Zilney, offered a counter-explanation . . .


2. Women Having Options. Women’s shelters and other facilities have given women an alternative. Without these, the only way to escape an intolerable situation at home was to get rid of the cause. Providing abused and desperate women a safe place to go saves lives — and apparently not just the lives of women.

Lisa writes that she’s “not wild about either of these explanations” and neither am I. A further twist is that it used to be the case that the United States had an unusually low level of gender inequality in intimate homicide. Consequently, it may be that the thing which needs explaining is not the divergence but the previous scenario in which there was no divergence.


CORRECTION: This post was actually written by guest blogger Jay Livingston. Apologies for the error.