How Do We Measure Hate Crime?

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August 6, 1999

· Not all forms of bias-motivated violence are recognized as hate crimes.

· Through the inclusion of "status provisions" in state and federal hate crime law for categories such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and disabilities, some victims of discriminatory violence have been recognized as hate crime victims while others have gone unnoticed.

· In particular, people of color, Jews, gays and lesbians, women, and those with disabilities increasingly have been recognized as victims of hate crime, while union members, octogenarians, the elderly, children, and police officers, for example, have not (Jenness forthcoming; Soule and Earl 1999).

· Prior to the collection of "official statistics" on hate crime, civil rights organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Southern Poverty Law Center collected and disseminated data on specific kinds of bias-motivated conduct (Jacobs and Potter 1998; Jenness and Broad 1997).

· The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1991) has documented literally thousands of incidents of violence against gay men and lesbians in the U.S., with over 75 percent of those surveyed reporting being victimized.

· The major government initiative to collect hate crime statistics began in 1990 when the federal government was ordered to amend the Uniform Crime Report to include "crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation; arson; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property" (Public Law 101-275).

· Participation in the Uniform Crime Reporting system has steadily improved in recent years; as a result, hate crime data are approaching the validity and reliability of other crime data (Figure 1).

· By 1997, the agencies participating in hate crime data collection covered 87 percent of U.S. population.

· The other major source of national crime statistics, the National Crime Victim Survey, will soon add questions about hate crime victimization.


Jacobs, James and Kimberly Potter. 1998. Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jenness, Valerie. Forthcoming. "Managing Difference and Doing Legislation: Social Movement Mobilization, Categorization Processes, and Identity Politics in the Making of Hate Crime Law in the U.S., 1985-1997." Social Problems

Jenness, Valerie and Kendal Broad. 1997. Hate Crimes: New Social Movements and the Politics of Violence. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine deGruyter.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 1991. Anti-Gay/Lesbian Violence, Victimization, and Defamation in 1990. Washington, D.C.: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

Soule, Sarah and Jennifer Earl. 1999. "All Men are Created Equal: The Differential Protection of Minority Groups in Hate Crime Legislation." Presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago, Illinois.

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