Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 10.djvu/578
562 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
Suicide in Cities. In spite of the difficulties in the way of accurate statistics of suicide, such as, for example, uncertainty in regard to the number by drowning, there is nevertheless valuable statistical material accessible, as in the reports issued by the city of Munich, which extend to sixty-one cities of Germany, and present very interesting results in regard to the influence of the city and of the inclinations of its inhabitants upon suicide.
It has long been known that suicides are more frequent in cities than in the country indeed, according to Rehfisch, from two to three times as frequent. This is not surprising when it is considered that in the cities the struggle for existence is carried on with the greatest keenness, and that there nervous tension reaches its highest pitch. The increasing differentiation of economic and social life in the city, the necessity of labor on the part of several members of the family in order to provide support, the inroads of alcoholism under these circumstances, and the deficient physique transmitted to children by overworked or debauched parents all of these factors are significant in their influence upon suicide.
In an examination of the frequency of suicides in cities, there are two points which it is necessary to keep in view. One is the relation between the percentage of suicides in the given city, and that in the district in which the city lies. Where the average of the district is high, there the suicides in cities will be still a little higher ; and where it is low, as in the Rhineland, the figures for suicides in the cities of the district will show a perceptible rise.
A second important factor is the effect of an increase in the population of cities upon the percentage of suicides. Not less than twenty-six of the sixty-one cities in the Munich report show a perhaps unexpected decrease in suicides along with a remarkable increase in population ; in a number more the proportion between population and suicides does not change ; while in the remaining cities there has been an insignificant increase in the number of suicides.
In view, however, of the short period covered by the statistics, it is not to be hastily concluded that the increase of city populations has in reality no effect upon the prevalence of suicide among the inhabitants.
When we turn from the comparison of suicide in a district as a whole, and in its cities, and give our attention to a comparison of the statistics of suicide in various cities of the empire, all uniformity vanishes. Large cities of nearly equal populations vary widely in their statistics of suicide, and the same is true of the smaller cities. The industrial character of a city throws as little light upon the matter, for the highly industrial cities of the Rhineland and Westphalia with their thousands of working-people stand very low in their percentages of suicides. Indeed, we do not arrive at a tenable ground of explanation for the wide varia- tions, reaching from 0.70 to 3.72 suicides per 10,000 inhabitants in the sixty-one cities studied, until we take up the matter of the religious complexion of the districts and cities in the list. An examination of the cities in question reveals the fact that in general the cities having low figures for suicides are those of the Catholic districts, such as the Rhine country, while the cities with the highest figures for suicide are those where a Protestant population is predominant. For example, in the three purely Catholic districts of Aachen, Munster, and Oppeln, during the years 1892-96, there were 5.4, 7.0, and 8.4 suicides respectively, per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the three purely Protestant districts of Potsdam, Magdeburg, and Liegnitz the figures rose to 32.9, 33.5, and 39.4 respectively. In Bavaria the suicides among Protestants were two and a half times as numerous as among Catholics in the district. These facts seem to indicate an undeniable reli- gious factor in the frequency of suicides. DR. HANS ROST, " Der Selbstmord in den Stadten," Allgemeines statistisches Archiv, Vol. VI (1904), p. 2.
E. B. W.
English Prisons and Their Methods. The British public has had it fre- quently borne in upon them, especially by headlines in the press, that the inmates of our prisons are " coddled criminals." This charge of coddling seems to have been accepted by at least a section of the public as the only criticism applicable to a system which its advocates regard as hardly capable of improvement.
Having had personal, though enforced, experience of English prison adminis-