Five Facts: Hate Crimes, 2010-2015
A hate crime is any criminal act that is motivated by bias toward a certain group.
Such biases are defined by federal law. They include animosity toward a race or ethnicity, a religious group, a gender identity or sexual orientation, or people with disabilities.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) gather statistics on hate crimes from local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. This article explores the UCR data on hate crimes for the six most recent years available.
—Daniel Kenis, Senior Editor at LiveStories
1. The vast majority of reported hate crimes involve assault, property damage, or intimidation.
However, different biases correlate with different types of criminal offenses.
Any type of crime can be classified as a hate crime. It is up to responding law enforcement to designate an incident as a hate crime.
Religion-based hate crimes are most likely to involve damage, destruction, or vandalism to property. Hate crimes targeting people based on gender and sexual orientation, on the other hand, are much more likely to involve violent assault. Racial/ethnic hate crimes are somewhere in between.
Select a bias from the menu to see its data:
2. Most reported incidents involve race and ethnicity—and the largest number by far target African Americans.
Comparisons between groups can be problematic, however, because the UCR has not consistently categorized biases from year to year. We have combined several categories to give a clearer picture of the data. (For documentation, see the last section of this article.)
3. The LGBT and Jewish communities are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes.
Hate crimes target people based on their identity as part of a group. The smaller the group, the more likely any given individual in that group will be targeted. For this reason, it is useful to look at hate crimes in terms of a given group's population.
Though the Jewish and LGBT communities report hate crimes at similar rates, the nature of those crimes differs greatly between the two minority groups. Most anti-Jewish hate crime offenses involve vandalism or other property destruction. Most anti-LGBT hate crime offenses involve violent assault.
4. Anti-Islamic hate incidents spiked by 66.9% between 2014 and 2015.
For comparison, total hate crime incident reports increased about 6.7% during the same period. Use the filter below to compare overall trends for broader bias categories.
5. Southern law enforcement agencies are much less likely to classify crimes as hate crimes.
This map shows all reported hate crime incidents from 2010 to 2015, as a proportion of each state's population. Use the filter to view the map for a specific category of hate crime.
The map is something of a Rorschach test. Do Southern states really have significantly lower rates of hate crime? Or do Southern police hesitate to identify crimes as hate crimes?
Comparing hate crime rates to overall crime rates can be illustrative. The map on the left shows all property and violent crimes between 2010-2014 as a rate for each state's population, and the map on the right shows the same for hate crimes. (We omitted 2015 because that year's UCR statistics are not yet available for all crimes).
Crime is generally more common in the South. But far fewer crimes are classified as hate crimes in states in the Deep South.
The difference between the highest and lowest rates is also significantly greater for hate crimes than for non-hate crimes. Between 2010 and 2014, the total crime rate varies among states by a factor of 2. For hate crimes, the state with the lowest rate—Mississippi—reports 22 times fewer incidents than the top state, New Jersey.
Southern states are not the only outliers in hate crime reporting. Pennsylvania has a hate crime rate far lower than its neighbors. Hawaii has not reported any hate crimes to the FBI. For its part, the FBI strongly cautions (PDF) against "ranking" jurisdictions by their reported crime rates.
Read our other stories:
The Southern Poverty Law Center: Founded in 1971, this nonprofit tracks hate groups throughout the United States.
The New York Times: "L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group," June 16, 2016.
The Associated Press: "Patchy reporting undercuts national hate crimes count," June 5, 2016.
Data Formatting Documentation
Because the FBI has changed its categorization scheme in various ways between 2010 and 2015, we've combined some of the statistics on the original datasets to enable year-to-year comparisons in this article.
Race and Ethnicity: Until 2015, "Race" and "Ethnicity" were treated as two separate categories. (“Anti-Hispanic/Latino” and “Anti-Other” were the only biases listed under Ethnicity.) We’ve combined them for all years.
Asian/Pacific Islander. In 2013, the FBI broke up “Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander” incidents into two categories— “Anti-Asian” and “Anti-Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.” To maintain consistency year-to-year, we have kept these incidents within the original, combined category.
Gender and Sexual Orientation combines three separate categories on the original UCR files—“Sexual Orientation,” “Gender,” and “Gender Identity.” (The FBI added the latter two categories in 2013.)
New Groups in 2015: In this year, the FBI began tracking hate crimes against Arabs, as well as several religious groups not listed in previous years. For consistency between years, we've kept these statistics in the "Other" categories.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Categories: From year to year, the FBI and its reporting agencies have not used consistent or even mutually exclusive category designations for LGBT bias incidents. For example, beginning in 2012, the FBI includes separate categories for Anti-Gay, Anti-Lesbian, Anti-Bisexual, and Anti-Transgender incidents—along with a fifth category, Anti-LGBT incidents. While we recognize the value of data on incidents against specific classes among the LGBT community, we believe any specificity in the reported data may be misleading, since it is not clear how, or how often, incidents against specific LGBT classes are listed in the broader LGBT category. For this reason, we have decided to only use a single, combined category, “Anti-LGBT.”
Table 4: Beginning in 2013, the FBI divides rape into two categories: “revised” and “legacy” definitions. We have combined these two categories to better enable comparisons with previous years. The four categories of offenses used throughout the article—Assault, Intimidation, Property Destruction, and Other—are not in the original datasets; they are constructed to enable more convenient comparisons between different groups.
Cover photo credit: Mike Labrum