Thursday, June 17, 2021

Getting the message


Gaps between perceived and actual crime rates, by immigrant group in the Netherlands. Dutch people underestimate the crime rate of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean while overestimating the crime rate of lighter-skinned immigrants, including Roma, Turks, and Chinese. The latter don’t benefit from the messaging of modern culture.



The crime news is unfair to Negroes, on the one hand, in that it emphasizes individual cases instead of statistical proportions [...] and, on the other hand, in that all other aspects of Negro life are neglected in the white press which gives the unfavorable crime news an undue weight. Sometimes the white press "creates" a Negro crime wave where none actually exists. (Myrdal 1944, pp. 655-656)


Gunnar Myrdal wrote An American Dilemma during the early years of the civil rights movement. He won over many young educated people, particularly when he argued that prejudice was making Black American criminality seem worse than it really was:


The popular belief that all Negroes are inherently criminal operates to increase arrests, and the Negro's lack of political power prevents a white policeman from worrying about how many Negro arrests he makes. Some white criminals have made use of these prejudices to divert suspicion away from themselves onto Negroes: for example, there are many documented cases of white robbers blackening their faces when committing crimes. (Myrdal 1944, p. 968)


The theme of the "framed Black man" would be central to a work of fiction, To Kill a Mockingbird. Since its publication in 1960 it has never been out of print. In 2006, it was the book most often mentioned when British librarians were asked: "Which book should every adult read before they die?" (Pauli 2006). Thus, for at least six decades, there has been a social norm of downplaying Black crime.


This norm has spread not only within the United States but also to all countries where English is widely used, particularly among the university-educated. In fact, it has spread to countries that never had black slavery or Jim Crow, or even a substantial African minority until recent times.


Perceptions and realities of crime in the Netherlands


One such country is the Netherlands. In a recent survey, 615 Dutch adults were given the following instructions:


There are many different immigrant groups in the Netherlands. For each of the groups, adjust the slider to your estimation of the crime rate relative to Dutch natives. This means you should adjust the slider to two (2) if you think the crime rate of this group is twice that of natives. (Kirkegaard and Gerritsen 2021, p. 4)


The actual crime rate of each immigrant group is known from public data published by the government. It was thus possible to measure how much the survey respondents overestimated or underestimated the criminality of each immigrant group. The respondents were chosen by two polling firms. A little over two-thirds of them came from a firm that tended to select younger and more university-educated people.


The findings are shown in the above graph. On the y-axis, the crime rate is overestimated at values higher than zero and underestimated at values lower than zero. The x-axis shows the percentage of Muslims in the immigrants' home country.


Kirkegaard and Gerritsen (2021, pp. 12-17) argue that the results show a pro-Muslim bias: the respondents tended to underestimate the crime rate of Muslim immigrants. But the bias was not favorable toward all Muslims. In fact, the crime rate was overestimated for immigrants from Indonesia, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and more or less correctly estimated for those from Egypt, Iran, and Iraq. In addition, the respondents showed much larger gaps between perception and reality when estimating the crime rates of different non-Muslim groups.


For source countries less than 25% Muslim, the crime rate was greatly underestimated (by a factor of 1 or more) for people from Congo, Angola, Cape Verde, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Dominican Republic. Conversely, it was greatly overestimated for people from Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Mexico.


Do you see a pattern? The respondents were underestimating the crime rate of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. Their pro-Black bias was much stronger than their supposed pro-Muslim bias. In fact, it was so strong that it affected their perceptions of different Muslim groups. The respondents perceived North Africans and Somalis as being better than they really are, while perceiving Turks as being worse than they really are.


It looks like people in the Netherlands, and probably throughout the West, are being conditioned to view the Black African phenotype positively and the White European phenotype negatively. This bias caused the respondents to overestimate the arrest rate not only of European immigrants but also of any group that deviates too far from the Black African phenotype, including Chinese, Mexicans and, apparently, Roma.(1)


What about the respondents who voted for Nationalist parties? You know, the “far right.” Although Nationalist voters were more inclined to overestimate the crime rate of Muslim immigrants, they were just as inclined to underestimate the crime rate of sub-Saharan African and Caribbean immigrants. The pro-Black bias seems very pervasive.





1. Roma in Western Europe identify themselves to the authorities by their country of origin, not by their ethnicity. The Dutch respondents greatly overestimated the crime rate of immigrants from Romania, and the recent wave of Romanian migrants is widely perceived to be mostly Roma:


In these figures, the number relating to the Roma is indeterminate since the ethnicity of asylum seekers is not recorded. Nonetheless, the assumption is that the majority of these applications were made by Roma. Certainly, the press is of this view. Articles discussing Czech or Romanian asylum seekers refer frequently to the Roma. As a result, it is easy for the ordinary member of the public to assume that such groups of applicants are of Roma extraction (Stevens 2003, p. 440)





Kirkegaard, E.O.W., and A. Gerritsen. (2021). A study of stereotype accuracy in the Netherlands: immigrant crime, occupational sex distribution, and provincial income inequality. OpenPsych, June 14


Myrdal, G. (1944). An American Dilemma. The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.


Pauli, M. (2006). Harper Lee tops librarians' must-read list. The Guardian, March 2  


Stevens, D.E. (2003). The Migration of the Romanian Roma to the UK: A Contextual Study. European Journal of Migration and Law 5(4): 439-461.  




Truth Seeker said...

First, are the study authors sure the respondents gave honest responses in this graph (i.e. were they subconsciously aiming for political correctness)? Second, if they were honest, is there a point at which naïveté becomes evolutionarily self-defeating (i.e. if their naïveté causes them to be victims of crimes more often, thus making it run into evolutionary inhibitors and get bred out or limited in the gene pool)?

jb said...

The graph only shows the arrest rate delta. What about the absolute values? It might be that the Dutch know perfectly well that people from Angola commit a lot more crime than people from Poland, and they might actually estimate higher arrest rates for people from Angola, and yet still get things wrong because they don't have a good quantitative feel for the numbers. That possibility is entirely consistent with the graph.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've noticed is that even in the more liberal and individualistic European countries like the Netherlands, there is still a relatively strong ethnonationalist and group based sense of nationhood that persists under the surface whereby everyone else is an outsider regardless of behavior and norms. So there is a baseline suspicion or hostility towards out-group members regardless of how light skinned or what the behavior or norms of the out-group members are like. Whereas in the US, there is definitely a stronger individualistic mindset and culture.

Moreover, the economy and labor markets are much more rigid and strict compared to the more relaxed and dynamic US economy. Immigrants to Europe, regardless of skin tone and behavior/norms, seem to be more ghettoized and segregated from mainstream society, whereas in the US greater opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic mobility make it easier for them to enter more mainstream society and respectability.

So Europe's greater sense of nationhood and lesser individualism seem to give a more natural sense of suspicion and hostility towards out-groups in general, while pro-black bias gives the black out-group relative favorability compared to other out-groups.

Truth Seeker said...

"Immigrants to Europe, regardless of skin tone and behavior/norms, seem to be more ghettoized and segregated from mainstream society, whereas in the US greater opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic mobility make it easier for them to enter more mainstream society and respectability..."
- Yeah, I'm sure that's why the latest (non-white) wave of Americanized 2nd-gen immigrants, such as AOC, Tlaib, Omar, etc., has started attacking traditional white America.

Peter Frost said...

Truth seeker,

We can never know what people really think, if only because most people don't know what they really think. If you don't articulate your thoughts, they remain amorphous and undeveloped.

In a relatively static demographic context, altruism would get bred out, but that would happen over many generations. I can think of a more realistic demographic scenario.


Wouldn't that problem apply to Dutch perceptions of all immigrant groups? Why would it apply more to African and Caribbean ones?


This is true for Quebec. Most French Canadians still have a strong sense of ethnic identity. They may have turned their backs on it, but it's still there. The shift to multiculturalism is still recent and not really accepted. English Canadians are much more like Americans, perhaps worse.

Truth Seeker,

People like AOC, Tlaib, Omar have been fully assimilated into 21st century American culture (or neo-Western global culture). They are not unassimilated traditionalists.

Truth Seeker said...

Fair enough, but would assimilated people be anxious to wage war against an irrelevant group (white traditionalists)? They would just laugh them off or ignore them. My impression of these people is that they're rebels, but rebels by definition aren't mainstream.

Peter Frost said...

Truth Seeker,

Most people are cowards, and cowards go after easy targets. By and large, White Americans are individualists and will defend themselves as individuals -- if they will defend themselves.

I hate being the first person to tell you this, but here goes. The people you mentioned are not rebels. They are the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

The same exact falsehood was frequenly used by my statistics professor in Germany a few years ago. Immigrants from Muslim countries didn't commit more crime, it was just that prejudice and racism made people pay more attention to them, and not to all the shoplifting German grandmas and other White criminals who escaped justice because everyone only ever suspected brown people! I didn't think that they've been peddling that same lie for the last 80 years with zero alterations.

jb said...

Wouldn't that problem apply to Dutch perceptions of all immigrant groups? Why would it apply more to African and Caribbean ones?

The delta shows the degree to which the natives got it wrong. It could be that the natives do have a correct sense of which immigrants cause the most problems, but underestimate just how bad the worst are. Wouldn't this lead to negative deltas for the biggest troublemakers? The natives might actually know Africans and Caribbeans are the worst, but simply aren't able to accurately put a number on it.

Anonymous said...

The Dutch might simply not be up-to-date.

I myself (German without any leftist tendencies) was almost completely unaware of the extent of black crime before I moved to the UK and switched to English as my preferred language. I then quickly learnt about the problems in the US. But I honestly did not know before!

What I did know very well was that in Germany Turks are vastly over-represented in crime (and that noticing this is highly politically incorrect, if less so than in the US). This has been an issue for decades. Debates about the problems of immigration mostly focus on the Muslim faith of the perpetrators and the culture that comes with it. Since 2015, asylum seekers have gained recognition as prolific criminals (somewhat at the expense of the Turks). Some sub-groups like "North Africans" or "Syrians" are occasionally mentioned. Yet due to the relatively low proportion of blacks in Germany (there are millions of Turks) their crime rates are not well-known (I myself have no clue!).

So perhaps the Dutch will adjust their beliefs, just like (non-woke!) Londoners probably have. Can you still believe that London has a Muslim crime problem, rather than a black one?

Of course, the war on noticing black crime that has long been underway in the US might have influenced the Dutch, who almost certainly consume much more English media than the Germans. To test that hypothesis, I suggest to look at more countries. France might make for a good comparison, because it does have more blacks due to its colonial history without being as influenced by the Anglosphere.