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Tom Head

Hate Crime Stats: Gay Men, Jews Are Most Vulnerable Reported Target Groups

By November 30, 2009

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According to the latest FBI stats, gay men and Jews are more likely to be targeted in reported hate crimes than any other group, per capita. (This information should be taken as very preliminary, because hate crimes are not consistently reported as such.)

Of the 9,691 reported hate crime victims and survivors, 1,145 were targeted for being Jewish. This means that last year, an average Jewish person in the United States had a 1 in 5,990 chance of being the victim or survivor of a reported hate crime.

Approximately 981 victims or survivors were identified as gay men, and another 466 identified as gay or lesbian without a specified gender. (198 were specifically identified as lesbian.) If we assume that half of the non-gender-specified victims of homophobic violence were male (which seems conservative given the ratio of gay male victims and survivors vs. lesbian victims and survivors), then we arrive at a figure of 1,214 reported gay male victims or survivors. If we rely on the traditional estimate of 2 million gay men in the U.S. population, then an average gay man had a 1 in 1,647 chance of being targeted in a reported hate crime last year--higher than any other identifiable group.

But any information regarding the vulnerability of gay men to hate crimes should come with asterisks: Hate crimes are underreported (especially if the victim or survivor is closeted), the estimate on the number of gay men in the general population is almost certainly low (does anyone really believe that only 1 in 75 American men are gay?), and 2008 statistics do not yet reflect crimes motivated by gender identity bias, a category added by the recently-passed Shepard-Byrd Act.

The largest category of hate crime, by far, seems to be racism-based: 3,596 victims or survivors of reported hate crimes in 2008 were targeted because they were black. But because there are 40.6 million African Americans, the odds of being the target of a reported hate crime for being black (1 in 11,374) remain much lower than the odds being the target of a reported hate crime for being gay or Jewish. On the other hand, a good argument could be made that the majority of hate crime incidents against African Americans are not reported--and population estimates of the number of African Americans, unlike estimates of the number of gay men and Jews, are based on rock-solid census data. (Also significant: Many gay men, and approximately 200,000 American Jews, are black.)

Only 792 reported victims or survivors were targeted on the basis of Latino identity, but this statistic is unreliable; undocumented immigrants, who anecdotally seem more likely to be targeted for hate crimes, are least likely to report them due to the increasing complicity of law enforcement agencies in immigration law enforcement.

Related: Does Hate Crime Legislation Threaten Free Speech?

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