The Real Story of U.S. Hate Crimes Statistics: An Empirical Analysis

35 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2004


Since 1990, the federal government has collected data on hate crimes reported throughout the United States. To date, the conventional account of that data has simply been to report that racial hate crimes are the most frequently reported type, followed by religious hate crimes, and sexual orientation hate crimes. While this conventional story is not technically wrong, I argue in this Article that it is not the real story the data tell.

Undertaking the first comprehensive empirical analysis of this data, this Article develops a new account of hate crimes in the United States. First, the Article pierces the neutral categories (race, religion, sexual orientation) to demonstrate that three sub-groups - blacks, Jewish people, and gay people - report, by far, the most hate crimes. Second, I adjust the raw data to account for the differing population sizes of targeted groups: per capita, gay people report the greatest number of hate crimes, followed by Jewish people and blacks, these three groups reporting hate crimes at greater per capita rates then all other groups. Third, gay people are especially like to report personal - as opposed to property-based - hate crimes.

A final section of the Article presents the first scholarly analysis of the staggering growth of anti-Islamic and anti-Arab hate crimes after September 11, 2001. The methodology of this Article enables a per capita perspective on this increase, showing that Muslims and Arabs reported hate crimes in 2001 at rates even greater than those at which gay people, Jewish people, and blacks have reported hate crimes over the past half-decade. While this post-9/11 spike leveled off in 2002, Muslims and Arabs are still reporting hate crimes at very high rates.

As Congress intended hate crimes data to assist in designing public policy initiatives, the Article concludes by calling on Congress to respond to what the data actually demonstrate.

JEL Classification: K14, K42, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Rubenstein, William B., The Real Story of U.S. Hate Crimes Statistics: An Empirical Analysis. Available at SSRN:

William B. Rubenstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1545 Massachusetts
Areeda 323
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-7320 (Phone)


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