The Poor Have Double the Rate of Violent Crime

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Persons in poor households at or below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) (39.8 per 1,000) had more than double the rate of violent victimization as persons in high-income households (16.9 per 1,000) for the period 2008–2012 per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

Serious violence (rape or sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) accounted for a greater percentage of violence among persons in poor households (38 percent) than in high-income households (27 percent).

This report uses data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to describe the nature of nonfatal violence against persons age 12 or older. In 2012, the Federal Poverty Level for a household of four in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia was $23,050.

Persons in poor households had higher rates of stranger (12.3 per 1,000) and nonstranger (24.2 per 1,000) violence compared to persons at all other poverty levels.

The rate of intimate partner violence for persons in poor households (8.1 per 1,000) was almost double the rate for low-income persons (4.3 per 1,000) and almost four times the rate for high-income persons (2.1 per 1,000).

The overall pattern of persons in poor households having the highest rates of violent victimization was consistent for poor non-Hispanic white households (46.4 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic black households (43.4 per 1,000). However, the rate of violent victimization for Hispanics did not vary across poverty levels. Poor whites (56.4 per 1,000) and poor blacks (51.3 per 1,000) in urban households had higher rates of violence than persons in all other types of households.

Violence against persons in poor (51 percent) and low-income (50 percent) households was more likely to be reported to police than violence against persons in mid- (43 percent) and high- (45 percent) income households.

This pattern of lower reporting of violence among mid- and high-income households held true for whites but not for blacks or Hispanics.

Other findings for the period 2008–12 include—

  • An estimated 14 percent of persons lived in poor households at or below the Federal Poverty Level, and over a third (36 percent) of persons were in high-income households.
  • Poor Hispanics (25.3 per 1,000) had lower rates of violence compared to poor whites (46.4 per 1,000) and poor blacks (43.4 per 1,000).
  • Persons in poor households had a higher rate of violence involving a firearm (3.5 per 1,000) compared to other persons (from 0.8 to 2.5 per 1,000).
  • Poor persons living in urban areas (43.9 per 1,000) had violent victimization rates similar to poor persons living in rural areas (38.8 per 1,000).

The report, Household Poverty and Nonfatal Violent Victimization, 2008–2012 can be found on the BJS website at