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National Index of Violence and Harm
Manchester researchers report
decline in violence and harm
of the nation’s
While violence statistically is on the decline in the United States, the
nation is setting an alarming trend in how it treats those
most-vulnerable: our hungry, homeless and uninsured families. That’s the
report from researchers at Manchester College in their latest
National Index of Violence and Harm.
Even before the Gulf Coast devastation of Hurricane Katrina, emergency
food requests had increased 14.4 percent in just one year – from 2003 to
2004 – with
million people (13.2 percent of the population) living in households
experiencing "food insecurity."
Several other statistically significant trends emerged in the study of
U.S. Census data by three faculty members and a student at the
independent Manchester College in northeast Indiana. The team examined
1995-2004 poverty and income levels for several groups in the U.S.
In 2004, more than 81 percent of U.S. major cities turned people away
from overwhelmed shelters, while families with children comprised 35-40
percent of the U.S. homeless population. In that same year, 45.8 million
people were without health insurance.
Nevertheless, the latest National Index of Harm and Violence shows
positive trends in 14
of the 19 variables measured over the nine-year study period. The Index
is divided into two broad categories of violence/harm. The Personal
Index includes, for example, homicide, suicide and drug deaths. The
Societal Index includes, for example, police abuse, corporate pollution
and child abuse. It also includes harm resulting from the structuring of
society, such as poverty and discrimination.
Street crime declined sharply, the index shows, helping to fuel an
overall 14 percent drop in the Personal Index since 1995. The Societal
Index also dropped, although it did include an increase in the
government category (correctional system and law enforcement).
“As opposed to the more familiar and dramatic personal harm, such as
homicide, societal harm is just as destructive and is far more pervasive
in our society,” notes sociology and social work Professor Bradley L.
Yoder, one of the researchers. “Many more people are
affected by structural and institutional
The clearest example of worsening societal harm is social negligence,
which continues to climb. Although the high school dropout rate fell
significantly in 2002 to 3.4 percent (after hovering near 4.5 percent
for six years), in 2003 it bounced up to 3.8 percent.
Other social negligence indicators continued to rise in 2003, some
Lack of health insurance
– from 15.2 to 15.6 percent of the population, with 45 million uninsured
– more than 12.5 million households experienced food insecurity (up from
12.1 million in 2002), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
– in 2003 an average increase of 7 percent in requests for emergency
housing across major metropolitan areas.
The Manchester College research team is led by psychology Professor Neil
J. Wollman, and also includes James Brumbaugh-Smith, associate professor
of mathematics and computer science, and sophomore Jonathan Largent of
Muncie, Ind. The faculty members have been compiling the Index since
The Manchester College research is unique in considering the
homelessness and dropout rates together, said Wollman, senior fellow of
the Manchester College Peace Studies Institute and professor of
“By examining them together, we can see whether our society responds
adequately to the needs of its citizens, particularly those who are most
vulnerable,” he said.
“Given the basic nature of these long unfulfilled needs – and the fact
that all other industrialized countries do provide in these areas – we
may need to look more closely at ourselves and our self-image of being a
For example, non-whites were still 2.7 times more likely to be in
poverty in 2003. And, while the gap in poverty disparity declined
strongly for gender, race and age, class differences continued to climb.
The disparity for 2003 was the greatest on record.
To learn more about the National Index of Harm and Violence and to
contact the researchers, visit
The independent, liberal arts Manchester College is located in North
Manchester in northeast Indiana. It is home to the nation’s first
undergraduate peace studies program and of The Graduation Pledge
Alliance. The residential college offers more than 45 areas of study to
1,104 students from 25 states and 30 countries. To learn more about the