Fact-Checking Donald Trump’s Acceptance Speech

5 minute read

Donald Trump’s speech Thursday night was riddled with bracing statistics about crime, immigration, jobs and debt, each designed to speak to the real fears and concerns of Americans. He did a careful job of making sure the facts in his speech were cited to published sources, and the campaign published an annotated draft. But many of the facts, taken alone, failed to fully describe the nation’s condition.

Here’s a look at the fuller context for some of the newly minted Republican presidential candidate’s claims.

“Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50%. They are up nearly 60% in nearby Baltimore.”

The raw numbers are true, according to a Washington Post analysis. But they paint a misleading picture by looking at 2015 in isolation. Since Obama took office, homicides have actually dropped 13% — a continuation of a 25-year trend spanning all large cities across the U.S. since the early 1990s. In 1991, an average of 27 people were killed in large cities every year; in 2015, the average was 11.

Criminologists fiercely disagree over whether the recent spike in homicides is a statistical anomaly or the result of short-term factors, or whether they point toward a more distressing longer-term trend.

“The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50% compared to this point last year.”

Again, that number is strictly true, but it lacks context. If you exclude the vast majority of officers who are killed by illnesses, heart attacks, or accidents — drowning, weather, car and motorcycle crashes — an average of about 50 to 60 officers are killed on-duty every year. In 2014, 60 police officers were killed by gunfire, assault or explosives. In 2015, 56 police officers were killed in the same way. So far in 2016, 42 officers have been killed by gunfire or assault.

According to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, between 2009 and 2015, under Obama, there were 17% fewer police officer fatalities that there were between 2002 and 2008, under George W. Bush.

“Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants do indeed have “criminal convictions,” according to federal data, but many of them are for crimes resulting from being in the country illegally — like breaking immigration laws, evading deportation notices, or driving without a license. There’s no data on murders committed by illegal immigrants.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security has come under criticism from the left for presiding over the deportation of more undocumented immigrants than any other president in history, according to a Reuters analysis of Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security deported 438,421 people, and in 2014, it deported 414,481 more—nearly 60,000 more than the previous record-high, in 2008, under Bush.

“Fifty-eight percent of African American youth are not employed.”

It’s true that 58% of African-American youth are “not employed.” But it’s not true that 58% of African-American youth are unemployed. From an economic perspective, that two-letter difference is significant. The first statistic includes all the youth — a term that the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as 16- to 24-year-olds — who are in school, taking care of their families, or otherwise engaged in the economy.

The second, which includes only those who are looking for work, but can’t find it — those who are unemployed — is closer to 21%, compared with about 10.3% of young whites. In July 2015, there were 28.8 million unemployed youth, down from 3.4 million a year earlier, according to BLS data.

“Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the President took his oath of office less than eight years ago.”

Rapid population growth among the Latino population, both from a higher natural birth rate and immigration, undergirds this number. According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2013 Census Bureau figures, Hispanics have actually seen their economic prospects improve since 2008. In fact, they are “the only major racial or ethnic group to see a statistically significant decline in its poverty rate,” helping to fuel the nation’s first decline in poverty rates in a decade.

“Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely.”

The Trump campaign’s annotated draft cites a CNS News article that doesn’t appear to repeat that statistic. Instead, it says that “a record 94,708,000 Americans were not in the labor force in May” of this year, which bears out in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The current labor force participation rate, at 62.7%, is indeed low, but it doesn’t take into account demographic changes: the baby-boom generation is in the process of retiring, and is therefore leaving the workforce voluntarily, while, the boomers’ younger counterparts, Millennials, are not yet through college, and therefore out of the workforce voluntarily too.

“Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000.”

American households have shrunk by roughly 3.4% since the late 1990s, as families have had fewer children and more people now live alone, so comparisons of household incomes across that time period reflect different household needs. If a household, made up of four people, earned the equivalent of $50,000 in 2000, it was not necessarily better off than a three-person household earning $48,000 in 2016.


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Write to Haley Sweetland Edwards / Cleveland at haley.edwards@time.com