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February 10th, 2009
06:08 PM ET

It’s not the economy, stupid

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on "In Session" 

 Police outside the Wilmington, CA home where Ervin Lupoe shot dead his wife and five young children before killing himself

Police outside the Wilmington, CA home where Ervin Lupoe shot dead his wife and five young children before killing himself

Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Since the economic downturn began, the media has been reporting a “rash” of cases in which men who have lost jobs or money have killed themselves and their families.

In the most celebrated case Ervin Lupoe killed himself, his wife, 8-year-old daughter, 5-year-old twin girls and 2-year-old twin boys in Wilmington, California. He and his wife had both lost their jobs.

It is easy to focus, in these cases, on the financially stressed father who snapped. But it is not really the economy that is to blame. It is true that some men who lose their jobs or life savings are vulnerable to depression and can become hopeless or even psychotic. It is true that suicide, spousal abuse and child abuse increase slightly in bad times.

But financial problems were a factor in only eight percent of the familicides studied by the Centers for Disease Control; and those of us in the business of criminal law know that most murder-suicides are caused by problems between intimate partners like adultery or child custody disputes.

Financial problems can be a factor; but It’s not the economy per se that leads to catastrophic results. Instead, it is the stress created by a lost job or lost savings — the sense of desperation — that pushes some people over the edge. These cases are rare. So, no one should expect family killings to increase in an economic downturn. To suggest they will is fiction. And when times are tough we need to know the facts.


Filed under: Economy • Jami Floyd
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Vietta

    While the economy is certainly depressing, it does not seem to have much impact on domestic violence homicide or family murder-suicide. Homicide where a husband kills his family and then himself has remained fairly constant for the last 30 years. Wife murder has been dropping during that same time from about 1500 per year to about 1200. Women killing their husbands over this 30 year period has dropped dramatically from about 1200 per year to about 325 year.

    The excuses for homicide have remained the same as well: perpetrators blame their wives for a lack of fidelity (mostly imagined), financial insecurity, etc.

    In the so-called ownership society, men who think they own their wives and children sometimes decide they are entitled to retain control at all costs.

    February 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  2. JIMMY TORIOLA

    Sometimes situation in our lives push us to do thing that ordinary we might not be able to do. But the mind is a powerful thing and anybody can snap at antime. I work in a psych hospital and I see everyday, what patients are capable of. When the human mind is put under pressure, it tend to fight back . We just need prayer and God intervention to see us through. Let us pray for every man and woman that are going thrugh any depression that God will see them through.

    February 11, 2009 at 7:38 am |
  3. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    @Lisa CA~hang in there girlfriend! Good times are ahead. Don't give up!
    XO (((hugs))))

    February 10, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    My brother was laid off several years ago and has not yet found a job in his own field – he is working a low paying job in the tourist industry to keep body and soul together. The company that laid him off was quite brutal in its layoffs – since they got to pay less on severance if they let people go for cause they laid off several hundred people that day for cause instead of for economic reasons (larger severance for this). They denied it was for economic reasons; that they were just cleaning house. Most of these people had good evaluations when they were laid off so you can't tell me it was for cause. I do know that for a year after he was let go I would go over and he would be sitting in the dark – just sitting – afraid to go on an interview because he didn't want to "fail" again. Yes, men and women both need depression help on something like this.

    February 10, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  5. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    The economic crisis, with the bankruptcy of enterprises, unemployment and lack of money, is one of the social factors contributing to the increase in depressed people. The number of people with depression and the suicide attempt that has been increasing, especially among young and middle-aged subjects (20-45 years).

    Depression is another reason why the government should invest in public health. Depression is a disease and can be controlled with medical aid.

    Symptoms of depression are many: sadness, motivation, loss of energy, appetite, libido, sleep disorders (insomnia) and low self-esteem.

    How many of us have not felt depressed at the time of seeking employment?
    Or, with the way the government currently treat our class?
    Being healthy in life is fundamental. But the job is not something to be far behind. Who has not, is likely to become seriously depressed.

    Men cared himself!
    More women seek medical help and the rate of suicide in men is four times greater.

    February 10, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  6. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    Well I'll be damn. I didn't know that! Whew!

    February 10, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  7. Barbara in Boston

    While I technically agree with you, that it is not the economy that leads people to feel desperate, you left out a key factor leading to impulsive acts of self-injury. The loss of identity that can be precipitated by job loss, losing one's home, overwhelming debt, among other economic recession indicators, can be devastating. Rather than a self-image of someone that can support a family, is gainfully employed, suddenly all that external strength is gone. Desperation can come not only from stress but from a sense that one's inner secrets - feelings of inadequacy - are suddenly stripped away and revealed for all the world to see. Shame and guilt added to desperate fear can snap the vulnerable ego.

    Anecdotally, I have seen increased numbers of referrals to inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations for suicidal ideation since the mortgage crisis began more than a year ago. I have been struck by how many of these referrals are for people who have no previous history of treatment. Perhaps they had some functional depression that went untreated for years and have finally overwhelmed them in a crisis, but I can't escape the observation that too many people who were previously getting by are sinking in these harsh economic times.

    Compounding this situation is the fact that when people lose their jobs, they usually lose their health insurance. COBRA payments may be too expensive to maintain. Therefore, when people most need to use their mental health benefits, they may no longer have coverage.

    While family killings may not increase in an economic downturn, rates of depression will - and have.

    February 10, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  8. Lucinda Marshall, Director Feminist Peace Network

    Actually in some instances, the economy is a factor in women finding it difficult to leave an abusive relationship because money is tight. In fact economic inequality is often a significant factor in abusive situations and that is magnified by a situation where someone who has anger and control issues suddenly is without a job and feeling powerless. There is substantial literature to back this up. However it is wrong to say that the economy or adultery or child custody causes murder or abuse. What causes this behavior is anger and control problems on the part of the perpetrator.

    February 10, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  9. Kristie Holliday

    I couldn't agree more.

    In addition I would like to point out that this guy did this to his family and himself just a week after being fired. That wasn't even enough time to apply for jobs and get rejection notices. So to say "is there no hope for a widow's son" in my humble opinion is like burning the house down because there is no food in the fridge. I know thats a poor analogy and comparison to life lost, but OMG what were THEY thinking.... apparently NOT... rationally anyway.

    I am so completely sorry for the family that they left behind. I can't imagine how they are processing the loss of those beautiful babies. That so sucks and ticks me off that they didn't appear to try to get back on track. I read about their financial circumstances and find myself in almost the same boat (not the loss of job and fraud stuff) with the mortgages and property taxes and all the "other" bills we get in the mail. But I would never consider taking my life.

    February 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  10. Marvin

    I agree with the first comment...this case can't be based on the fact that the economic problems mad him do that....I belive he has other problems in combination led to the killing of this family...

    February 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  11. Cori

    This is so tragic, and I hope something is done soon to help people deal with the crisis of this economy.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Lisa in CA

    Well, I must be one of the 8% - the only so far that has stopped me from committing suicide is that my life insurance policy won't pay out. If I thought it would, I'd do it. When one falls between the cracks, they crack. And my situation is one that falls between the cracks. But like I said, my insurance policy won't pay out if I commit suicide, so the world is still stuck with me.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  13. Luis

    This reminds me of my economic history studies back in college. All we learn in class is that people in the 1930 stock market collapse killed themselves by jumping off buildings.

    No different now. People now use a gun. It's faster.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm |