There have been several claims in the media that white men are more likely to commit mass murders. I've seen rather strong evidence that the vast majority of these crimes are committed by men, so I don't doubt this part of the claim. On the other hand, I haven't seen any non-dubious statistics for the racial aspect of the claim. Are white people more likely to commit mass murder than those of other races?

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    @Geobits: I don't have a specific definition in mind, I'm just interested in whether the claim is valid under any reasonable definition
    – Casebash
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:22
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    @LarryOBrien: Wikipedia lists 52/75 or 69%. According to Wikipedia, the white population is 72% or 64% excluding Hispanics who identify as white. An effect that modest could be simply due to modelling. We know that people are more likely to copy people similar to them and numerically most of the perpetrators are white and the media explicitly makes this link
    – Casebash
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:35
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    I've added the United-States tag for two reasons: (1) the linked reference talks about white male privilege in the context the "sense of belonging", which is not going to apply (as strongly) in countries where caucasians are in the minority, so I don't think the claim is global. (2) On the other hand, if the claim is intended to be global, there is a huge confounding factor of in which countries the populace have access to rampage weapons.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 1:29
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    is it fair to say that in a country where the population is mostly white most serial killers will be white? In other words, the number of people of a specific population reflects the makeup of the population as a whole.
    – stephen
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 20:17
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    @stephen the answer below basically agrees with your thought. about 71% were white, and the average white population is at about 70%, so it appears that we have mass murderers in proportion to race.
    – Himarm
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


We identified a total of 28 mass murderers who fit the criteria for inclusion [male mass murderers in the U.S. since 1970]. [...] 71.4% were White, 14.3% were African American, and another 14.3% were some other race (Asian, Arab, and Native American).

Kennedy-Kollar, Deniese and Charles, Christopher A. D., Hegemonic Masculinity and Mass Murderers in the United States (December 26, 2013). Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 8(2), 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2372128

This only shows that given a mass murderer, they are more likely to be white.

From the chart and references here, white people made up 87.5% of the U.S. population in 1970, 83.1% in 1980, 80.3% in 1990, 75.1% in 2000, and 72.4% of in 2010.

71.4% of mass murderers being white is not an over-representation of whites.

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    Control group! Control group! What was the distribution of the American population at the time?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 3:05
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    Your white American stats include arabs as white yet the killing stats don't. You need comparable statistics. Commented May 31, 2014 at 15:10
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    Your quote from the shooting stats includes Arabs as part of the other category. The linked Wikipedia article on White Americans: It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "White" or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian"[4] and so is a wider group than European American. Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 2:00
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    You may want stats on European Americans as that seems to match the mass shooting stats but I have not actually checked that source for their definition. Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 2:02
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    @gerrit Assuming that the stats are comparable (right now, they aren't... I'm going to fix that), your question about statistical significance of the difference depends on the null hypothesis. Given than the question asks if white are more likely to commit mass murder, a one-sided null hypothesis makes sense. I.e. The null hypothesis is that white people are not more likely to commit mass murder. Under this null hypothesis, we would observe a test statistic at least as extreme as this more than 50% of the time. Therefore, no reason to reject the null hypothesis.
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 16:14

No. An answer on Politics.SE quotes from Wikipedia:

according to a database compiled by Mother Jones, the race of the shooters is proportionate to the overall US population, although Asians are overrepresented and Latinos underrepresented.

This includes way more mass shootings than the other answer.

This is based on data from Mother Jones as reported at CNN:

"If you look at the whole list, it turns out that whites and blacks are pretty proportionate to their population, very close," said Dave Cullen, author of the book "Columbine," which tells the story of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Harris and Klebold, the shooters there, were white.

Historically, Latinos and Asians have been the exception.

The Virginia Tech massacre was carried out by Seung-Hui Cho, who was born in South Korea.

"Latinos are almost nowhere to be seen," Cullen told CNN's "New Day." "Asians continue to be heavily overrepresented -- more than 2½ times their size in the population."

It would depend on what you mean by 'more likely'. People with light skin tone are a larger share of the population, and so they will also be a larger share of the perpetrators, but not a larger share as a proportion of their population.

Here is a per-capita chart:


Mass Shootings By Race Per Capita

I've come to discover that the Mother Jones compilation may be biased, as it left off Plano, TX, 8 killed. It also has shootings with only 3 fatalities, while mass shootings are generally defined as 4 fatalities (not including shooter). Why didn't they include the Ohio baby party 'mass shooting' with many injured but only 1 fatality?

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    This is a tertiary source (Politics.SE points to Wikipedia points to CNN points to Mother Jones). The answer would be improved by unravelling a few layers to get to the data.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 23:49
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    Do they even have enough data for Asian-Americans to conclude anything one way or another? They have about 150 mass shootings, I suspect, with Asian-Americans at only 5% of the population.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 8:30
  • I'd expect the numbers for Latinos to be much more solid, and if so, that's intriguing. I wonder what would cause that.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 8:31
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    You should really put your edit on bias closer to the top of the answer rather than burying it away at the bottom, it seems quite significant.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 19:02
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    @Hashim The evidence for bias doesn't really stand up though: Mother Jones states their methodology clearly. Plano is not included because they exclude domestic violence. motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/… Whether mass shooting should be 3 or 4 fatalities is debateable en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_shooting Not counting a incident with a single fatality is also bias? Seriously?
    – richardb
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 17:03

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