Anti-Gay Hate Crimes: Doing the Math

The national hate crime statistics published each year by the FBI are notoriously sketchy, in large part because, as a 2005 Department of Justice study found, most hate crimes are never reported to police and those that are typically are not categorized as hate crimes by local jurisdictions. Nevertheless, by examining FBI data, it is possible to make reasonable estimates of the rates of victimization by various targeted minority groups.

To calculate these rates for six categories of victims — LGBT people, Jews, blacks, Muslims, Latinos and whites — the Intelligence Report first determined the percentage of the U.S. population represented by each victim group: LGBT people, 2.1%; Jews, 2.2% (Census Bureau’s 2009 Statistical Abstract); blacks, 12.9%; Muslims, 0.8% (2009 estimate from the Pew Research Center); Latinos, 15.8%; and whites, excluding Hispanic whites, 65.1%. Of these, the percentage of LGBT people in the American population is the most debatable. We use figures on self-identified gays, lesbians and bisexuals from a National Health and Social Life Survey that were also cited by a coalition of 31 leading gay rights organizations as “the most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States.” The 2.1% proportion is calculated from the finding that 2.8% of men and 1.4% of women are LGBT.

Next, we compiled the total number of hate crimes against persons (that is, excluding hate crimes against property) in those categories for the years 1995-2008, the period for which there was complete data. We then totaled the crimes for those 14 years in each category and calculated what percentage of all hate crimes against persons they represented. There were 15,351 anti-LGBT  hate crime offenses during those years, for instance, which amounts to 17.4% of the total of 88,463 reported violent hate crimes. The figures for the remaining victim groups were Jews, 7.7%; blacks, 41%; Muslims, 1.5%; Latinos, 8.8%; and whites, 13.3%.

Using the figures from the above two paragraphs, we then compared the level of hate crime aimed at each group to that group’s percentage in the population to determine the group’s rate of victimization compared to its representation in the population. For LGBT people, for example, it was calculated that they are victimized at 8.3 times the expected rate (17.4 divided by 2.1). The other categories were as follows: Jews were victimized at 3.5 times the expected rate, blacks at 3.2 times, Muslims at 1.9 times, Latinos at 0.6 times, and whites at 0.2 times.

Last, we compared the rate of victimization for LGBT people to that of the other groups. The figures show that LGBT people are 2.4 times more likely to suffer a violent hate crime attack than Jews (8.3 divided by 3.5). In the same way, gays are 2.6 times more likely to be attacked than blacks; 4.4 times more likely than Muslims; 13.8 times more likely than Latinos; and 41.5 times more likely than whites, according to the FBI figures. The basic pattern holds by years as well as across the years.

The bottom line: LGBT people are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime.

Janet Smith contributed to this report