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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's annual list of the Top 15 causes of death in the United States has a surprise this year:
For the first time since 1965, it doesn't include murder.
Though some might be inclined to blame pneumonitis for the lack of inclusion, the fact is that the U.S. murder rate is at its lowest since 1962. Crime statistics covering the year 2010 show that there were only 5.3 homicides per 100,000 persons.
Though that number is still too high, murder's lost position is not altogether unexpected. The United States experienced a drop in homicide during the mid-1990s, according to the Washington Post. It then leveled out, but started to drop again in 2008.
No one is exactly sure why, but police in Los Angeles and Chicago cite homicide prevention programs, reports the Associated Press. They not only focus on the who, but the why. This may have cut down on retaliatory gang shootings, which occur frequently in large cities.
Still, we do know that the U.S. murder rate is not tied to the economy. A study of 13 business cycles indicates that "recessions have little or no effect on the homicide rate," explains Philip J. Cook, a professor at Duke University.
The notion that crime goes up during a recession is probably just a myth.
We may never know, but whatever is causing the U.S. murder rate to fall, let's just hope it continues. Maybe then we can renew our focus on the nation's top killer -- heart disease.