Professor Andrew DawsonWhy are some societies consistently more violent than others? Glendon Campus’ Andrew Dawson has been awarded $24,517 US to study just that. The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation will fund Dawson’s project, which compares historical homicide rate trajectories in Canada and the United States in order to identify factors that caused the rates in the two countries to diverge. Dawson, a faculty member in Glendon’s Department of Sociology, plans to examine the influence of socioeconomic and political cultural variables in accounting for the difference in homicide rates in the two countries in order to better understand why murder is more prevalent in some societies than in others.

Dawson explains that “in answering this research question, this project is poised to make a meaningful impact both within and beyond academia. The analyses will provide a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate of the significance of political culture and political economy in explaining differences in levels of homicide between Canada and the United States. In addition, this project will inform public policy by expanding our knowledge of the structural and cultural factors affecting homicide rates over time and across regions.”

The United States is considered the most violent of the Western industrialized countries and has a homicide rate of three times that of Canada’s. However, this has not always been the case: prior to the mid-1800s, homicide rates in the Canada and US were similar. What changed to cause these homicide rates to diverge so significantly? Dawson hopes to find out.

Using court archives, coroners’ reports, censuses, newspapers, and various secondary sources, Dawson will collect homicide data for Ontario, Nova Scotia and comparable American regions. The project will compile the first continuous (or near-continuous), long-term historical trend in homicide rates for the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia, beginning in the latter half of the 18th Century until the present.

He also plans to investigate corresponding measures of state legitimacy, economic inequality and economic development in each region, in addition to an inductive analysis of the historical events related to long-term changes in homicide rates. Subsequently, he will conduct comparative analyses in order to highlight factors which caused the homicide rates in each country to diverge.

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation was established by Harry Guggenheim to support research on violence, aggression and dominance. Dawson’s project was one of ten proposals funded from a pool of 320 applications.

For more information, contact Professor Dawson at adawson@glendon.yorku.ca