Flawed hate crime data collection

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

Data can provide you with important information, but when the collection process is flawed, there’s not much you can do. Ken Schwencke, reporting for ProPublica, researched the tiered system that the FBI relies on to gather hate crime data for the United States:

Under a federal law passed in 1990, the FBI is required to track and tabulate crimes in which there was “manifest evidence of prejudice” against a host of protected groups, including homosexuals, regardless of differences in how state laws define who’s protected. The FBI, in turn, relies on local law enforcement agencies to collect and submit this data, but can’t compel them to do so.

Right there. There are no standards or set definitions of a hate crime. Some local agencies participate. Many don’t. Those who participate might only collect partial information.

This data that dates back to 1990 is still in the anecdote phase.

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