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Immigrants and Swedish crime

February 21, 2017


Like Kevin Drum, “Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off.” Give me graphs. Meaningful graphs that don’t play tricks and explain their source data. The data he looks at shows two things.

1) In Sweden — unlike America — immigrants do commit crimes at substantially higher rates than native Swedes.

2) Despite that, and despite accepting a relatively large number of immigrants in recent years, crime rates in Sweden are flat for the past decade. Contrary to what the right-wing media wants people to believe, Sweden has not suffered an explosion in crime. (See graph left, and read the links.) Sweden had 112 murders in 2015. That is about one-fifth the homicide rate of North Carolina, a state with similar population, and one-quarter the homicide rate of the US as a whole. If we could bring violent crime in the US down to the levels of Sweden, we would talk about the miraculous reform that did it.

The trick the right-wing media plays is to focus their cameras on what they want to show, and then pretend, absent context, that it is what you need to know. They exploit a cognitive bias Lakoff calls the salient exemplar. Don’t be fooled. Book that trip to Sweden.

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