Why The South Is More Violent Than The Rest Of America

CannonAP Photo/Giovanna DellortoA cannon in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee was the state with the most reports of violent crimes per capita in 2012.

The FBI’s final 2012 crime statistics confirm a long-term and somewhat puzzling fact — the South has more violent crime than the rest of America.
The South accounted for 40.9% of all reported violent crimes even though it makes up roughly a quarter of the country, according to the final Uniform Crime Report for 2012.

Here’s a snapshot of America’s violent crimes:

Violent Southerners aren’t anything new. In 1958, the South had a homicide rate of nine per 100,000 compared to a rate of three per 100,000 for the U.S.,
according to a paper in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

The South has continued to have more than its share of violent crimes over the years, even as the rest of the country gets safer, Radford University criminology professor Tod Burke tells Business Insider.

Of course, nobody really knows why the South is consistently more violent. There are a couple of pretty popular theories, though.

Legacy Of Violence in The South

One theory is that violence in the South is simply the way folks have always settled their disputes. This “subculture of violence” theory suggests that violence is passed from generation to generation, University of Maryland Criminology Professor Gary LaFree told Business Insider.

There is some evidence that Southerners are more predisposed to violence.

One experiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found Southern men were more prone to aggression as part of a “culture of honour.” In the experiment, a mole bumped into participants from the North and South and called them “arsehole.” Southerners were more primed for aggression after the insult. That is, their testosterone levels rose. They were also more likely to actually engage in aggressive or dominant behaviour after being called arsehole.

There are other signs that a culture of violence pervades the South, Burke points out.

“If you look at the philosophy in Southern culture, more likely than not, the people in the South believe in capital punishment, in executions,” Burke said. “They are more likely, again this is all statistically proven, they are more likely to believe in corporal punishment than other parts of the country. They are more likely to believe in military intervention abroad.”

Poverty In The Southern States

Crime has long been associated with poverty, and many of America’s states with the lowest per capita income are in the South — including Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Kentucky.

“One of the best predictors of homicide is economic stress,” says LaFree, the University of Maryland criminologist. “A lot of the poorest places in America are in the rural South.”

Hot Weather Leads To Hot Tempers

The summer months have been linked to crime waves in America, as the balmy weather encourages young people to hit the streets. Recently, an empirical study found that extreme temperatures do in fact lead to violence, speculating that hot temperatures made people more aggressive.

In the South, people are coping with hot temperatures, extreme poverty, and a so-called culture of honour. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising that it’s more violent than the rest of the country

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