Social cost of murder: $17 million per victim?

They found that each burglary in the United States—a car break-in, for example—costs $41,288. For armed robberies the cost increases eightfold, to $335,733. Every aggravated assault costs $145,379. Each rape costs $448,532.

Then there is murder. The researchers, led by sociologist Matt DeLisi, put the price tag at a whopping $17,252,656. That means in 2009, according to the FBI, murder cost the United States almost $263 billion—nearly as much the federal government annually spends on Medicaid…

To put a price on murder, researchers perform a poll. They ask a nationally representative sample of people how much they would pay to reduce the incidence of homicide in their community by 10 percent. Then they can extrapolate how much society writ large would offer to stop a single murder.

The answer? For homicide and other forms of violent crime, Americans are willing to pay a whole lot. In DeLisi’s study it is not the “victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates for both the victim and the criminal” that make up the bulk of the $17 million cost, though all of those are included. It’s the “estimates on the public’s resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence.” That accounts for a bit more than $12 million per murder.