Years ago, like when I was 13, I was with my father, driving from NYC to Chicago, on a baseball road trip (he drove). Between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we spent one night in Johnstown, PA. (Remember the Johnstown Flood!). After watching the Johnston Jonnies play baseball, we had dinner in a local bar. My father, known for being gregarious and getting along with all races, religions, and education levels, looked around at the pale depressed clientele and said to me in a hushed tone, "These are not my people." It's the only time I ever saw him uncomfortable in a crowd.
Based on my last post, I looked up East Liverpool, Ohio. It's very white (93 percent) and quite poor. The median household family income of $23,138 is about half the national average. A quarter of the population (and 35 percent of children) are below the poverty line. The population of 11,000 is down from a 1950 peak of 24,000.
East Liverpool is the biggest city in Columbiana County, which seems to straddle coal, rust, and rural. The county has a total population of just over 100,000 people and is 96 percent white. It's also poor, with a median family income of just $34,200 (but interestingly, the poverty rate is below the national average). And it's increasing Republican. It's Trump country.
What I'm saying is, kind of like Obama and Clinton, I've never felt much kin with this part of America (the Appalachian Scotch-Irish folk of southeast Ohio, northern W. Virginia, and southwest Pennsylvania). If they're more worried about immigrants, gun rights, and encroaching Sharia Law than about moving forward and letting people help them get out of poverty and not overdosing in from of their grandson, I'm inclined to let them be and not give a damn.
But here's the thing. No matter how hopeless and messed up things might be in East Liverpool and Columbiana County, Ohio; no matter how the jobs are gone; no matter how loose the gun laws are; no matter where junkies are shooting up; no matter how much crime there is; no matter how forgotten by the government and mocked by east-coast elites they might be, the good folks of Columbiana County somehow manage not to murder each other. And there is crime in East Liverpool, Ohio. In fact, if the data is accurate (and that is a big if, coming from a small place), the violent and property crime rates of East Liverpool are twice the national average.
Neighborhood Scout (not exactly an ideal academic source) puts it this way:
With a crime rate of 53 per one thousand residents, East Liverpool has one of the highest crime rates in America. With a population of 10,951, East Liverpool's [crime rate] is very high compared to other places of similar population size.Best I can tell, this entire county of about 100,000 has maybe one homicide a year. Some years there seems to be none. Other years maybe two. (I'm basing this on Columbiana County, East Liverpool, and Salem City police departments). This homicide rate, 1 per 100,000, is about 1/4th the national average.
Meanwhile, Baltimore City has a poverty rate lower than East Liverpool. Baltimore's median household income is higher than East Liverpool. Hell, the average income even in poor East and West Baltimore is higher than East Liverpool. And yet in the past 365 days (Sep 10, 2014 to Sep 10, 2015) 329 people in Baltimore have managed to put themselves in harm's way and get killed. Now Baltimore has more than six times the population of Columbiana County. So if Baltimore were 1/6th the size, it would have 55 murders. Columbiana County has 1.
Even whites in Baltimore managed to get murdered 17 times last year. That's of course a fraction of the number of black homicides, but whites in Baltimore (fewer than 200,000) get murdered eight times as often as the good folks of heroin-addicted poverty-living can't-find-work police-are-asking-for-help Columbiana County.
Baltimore City has more unemployment (7.4 percent vs. 5.3 percent). Yeah, sure. And there's more poverty and extreme poverty in Baltimore. I'm not saying that doesn't matter. But deep down, no. Poverty is a red herring. Culture matters. Columbiana County's unemployment could be 20 percent and the murder rate would still be lower that Baltimore City.
There's something else going on. The nexus of violence is not poverty and racism but public drug dealing and drug prohibition. I suspect addicts in Columbiana County buy their heroin from friends and family and coworkers. Not from Yo-Boys on the corner. Push drug dealers inside and violence plummets. But when police try and do that in Baltimore, the DOJ complains about systemic racism.