U.S. Deaths from Terrorism, 1995-2014
Considering recent claims that terrorism is an existential threat that should be driving Americans to costly actions such as
- expanding the budget deficit,
- eroding civil liberties protections,
- “patrolling and securing” Muslim-majority neighborhoods in an action evoking Jewish ghettos in 20th Century Central Europe,
- killing known blood relatives of terrorists,
- building an immense wall thousands of miles long,
- torturing people, and
- carpet bombing entire nations,
a prudent course of action would be to actually measure how many deaths have occurred due to terrorist attacks. Fortunately, such measurements are being made by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a non-partisan, non-profit University of Maryland project that is both sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and named a Center of Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security. I note these affiliations to indicate that such counts come from the heart of the Homeland Security apparatus, which if anything has a budgetary incentive to overestimate U.S. deaths from terrorist attacks. The GTD’s latest data release, including deaths through the end of 2014, allows us to obtain a count of the total number of deaths of Americans due to terrorist attack from 1995-2014. The following is an unabridged tally from the GTD, including both deaths in the United States and deaths of Americans occurring outside the United States:
The average number of American deaths per year from terrorism during this period is 184.2. The median number of American deaths per year during this period is 17.
To put the above numbers in relative perspective, the 13 deaths of Americans anywhere in the world due to terrorism in 2013 represents 0.000004107% of a population of 316.5 million. The 32 terrorism deaths of Americans anywhere in the world in 2014 represents 0.00001003% of a population of 318.9 million.
The following are the top ten causes of death in the United States in 2014, also the last year for which statistics are available. Indicated is the cause of death and number of deaths for each in the United States in 2014. Source: Centers for Disease Control.
- Heart disease: 611,105
- Cancer: 584,881
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
- Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
- Diabetes: 75,578
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149
To put the above numbers in relative perspective, the 47,112 deaths of Americans anywhere in the world due to kidney (nephrotic) problems in 2014 represents 0.01477% of a population of 318.9 million. The 2014 nephrotic death toll is 1,472.25 times larger than the 2014 death toll from terrorism. The 41,149 suicide deaths of Americans anywhere in the world in 2014 represents 0.01003% of a population of 318.9 million. The 2014 suicide death toll is 1,285.91 times larger than the 2014 death toll from terrorism.