Suicide vs. Homicide by State, per 100,000

In the latest Freakonomics Radio podcast,’The Suicide Paradox,” we explore, among other things, why suicide is twice as prevalent in the U.S. as murder. From the CDC, here’s a breakdown of state-by-state suicide and homicide rates.


Sources: Suicide data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Vital Statistics, National Vital Statistics Report Volume 58, Number 19, May 2010, Table 29. Available at Homicide data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Expanded Homicide Data 2007, Table 20. Available at

Alex Kerin

Could you provide a link to the Excel/Data file you created for this? I would like to map this and look for regional trends.

Mike Virgilio

While it might falsely imply that there is a correlation between the two, a scatter plot might be better at showing the relationship.



I thought the same thing. You can find the scatterplot here:!/jtwalsh0/status/109309117881004032/photo/1. Notice that PR, Florida, DC, and the US are missing because they are not found in the data sources provided by Freakonomics.

Eric M. Jones.

Fascinating chart, but after studying it, I have to pronounce it DOA. My reason is that grouping the stats by states is so entirely distorting that it destroys any meaning that the chart might have. Viz:

"Pittsburgh on one side, Philadelphia on the other, and Alabama in the middle." ---somebody

And this shows the problem clearly. It would be an enormous challenge to create visuals that would give the detailed data some comprehensibility. Also because of the relationship between the Federal Government and the States, detailed city by city data is probably hard for the Feds to collect. What city wants the Feds to know its firepower and despair?

ps: NYC has online data detailing deaths that goes way back....start by seeing:

5,581 New York City Violent Deaths in 1925

1272 Automobile Accidents
994 Suicides
925 Falls from high places
631 Gas
439 Burns
416 Drowning (Ferrys?)
356 Homicides
343 Trucks
167 Taxicabs
140 Accidental Poisoning
117 Collisions (Streetcars?)
95 Falling objects
95 Swimming
87 Elevators
56 Subways and Elevated Trains
52 Railroad Trains
14 Accidental Shooting
11 Capsizing Boats
6 Baseball
5 Kicked by horses
1 Football
1 Aeroplane


Steve M

Looks like there may be some relationship between suicide rate and population density. Is there a ready plot for that?

Impossibly Stupid

Please re-do the chart to include the number of automobile-related deaths per year. Here is the data:

The point being, I really don't see why suicide and homicide should be singled out or presumed to be related in any way. Suicide isn't the only cause of death that dwarfs murder but receives very little attention.

I would also argue that, in many ways, suicide *better* represents "a fractured promise within our social contract". Murder happens for all sorts of . . . expected . . . reasons. Suicide, on the other hand, too often happens (or, at least, we feel most guilty when it happens) for reasons we *should* be able to prevent as a society.


I think that suicide and homicide are related because they are have the element of "intent to kill" in them. Accidents do not have this intent. Nor do Acts of God (assuming God's not really behind it!).

But while one person intends to kill himself; the other intends to kill someone else. (I am assuming, of course, that someone getting hit by a drunk driver is not being counted as a homicide--i.e., purposeful killing.)

At least I think that may be why they are related. Oddly enough, it seems that the people who have the money and time to education to engage in retrospection--or perhaps the person who realizes that there is more to life...and he/she isn't going to ever attain it--are the ones who kill themselves. The folks who are in hard circumstances and don't really know or imagine another existence are (in a good way) like the dog that is hit by a car, but never knows self-pity. All that person knows to do is to live on, to survive.


Steve Rein

Why not calculate the ratio then use google correlate to come up with some possible theories?


Though it's hard to be sure from statewide data, it seems as though homicide is more likely in urbanized states, suicide in rural ones. Even some of the outliers seem to support this: though we think of Alaska & Nevada as rural states, much of the population actually lives in one or two urban concentrations. It's be interesting to see this done by county or zip code, and correlated with population density.

Joshua Northey

"we explore, among other things, why suicide is twice as prevalent in the U.S. as murder"

Suicide can be a sensible response to life's problems. So can murder.

I would posit that suicide is often the better choice in our current environment, and that is what is driving the above.


OK, I've finally figured it out....

Basically, there is this invisible line in life. When it is crossed, someone has to go. If you are rich and refined, you do yourself. If you are not quite so "honorable," you kill someone else.

So, the rich folks/states do more killing of themselves, while the poorer areas tend to let off steam by killing someone else.

That's how I see it...controlling for my own ignorance.

Impossibly Stupid

I don't think it has anything to do with notions of honor or education. Wasn't there a Freakonomics post that discussed rich people not being any more happy than poor people? From that perspective, I think it makes more sense that the poor might be less suicidal than the rich. If you have a bad lot in life, you have plenty of external agencies to blame and plenty of time to change things for the better, but if you have had everything handed to you and you're still somehow not happy as a result, it's easy to think things are not going to get any better for you.


The DC stats are scary


A question I raise about the higher suicide rate is if actual homicides are being categorized incorrectly as suicides.

Anat Avi

This topic is fascinating to me and I have been immersed in a project revolving around the suicide of my partner which explores the images of death, namely my death. Is there a way you can share my website with David Lester? I would love to hear his take on it! Thank you so much for this podcast!

Andreas Moser

I see there are more suicides in the rugged "Wild West" states.
Suicide is the ultimate form of self-determination, of taking charge of your own life, regardless of what others might think about you:

Deborah Morrissey

Highest suicide rates - Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico. You think the rates spike in winter?


I agree with a poster earlier who wonders why the two figures should and could be compared. From my European standpoint, I was not at all surprised to read that suicides are higher, in fact I was surprised that they were not even higher than they are, when compared to homicide.

Compliments for work well done, but let's not try to read too much into it.

On the "intent to kill" comparison, I disagree strongly. One is a crime, the other a much more complicated psychological phenomenon. It does disservice to those who have committed suicide to show them in this light.