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Black Children's Gunshot Risks Grew to 100X White Rate in Pandemic

The rate at which children in the U.S. were shot nearly doubled from 2015 to 2021, with the risk to Black children 100 times worse than for white children during the first 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trace reports. A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed data from Philadelphia, which has the highest firearm homicide rate nationwide, and the three most populous cities in the U.S: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Researchers found that firearm assaults among people 18 and younger from 2015 to 2021 grew from nearly nine children per 100,000 to nearly 17 children per 100,000. The dataset included both fatal and nonfatal shootings for every city except Chicago (for which data on nonfatal injuries among children was not available). Among non-Hispanic white children, there was no increase in shootings. Black children saw the most significant increase, from 27 children per 100,000 to 34.

“These stats are astonishing, but not surprising. The number is quite high, but it is very consistent with what we see on the frontlines,” said Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon at Northwell Health in New York. “Last year, we saw a 350 percent increase at our children’s hospital of kids coming in with bullet wounds. The majority of those children are Black children.” Jonathan Jay, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, agreed. “This study shows how important it is to bring a health disparity lens to research,” he said. “It shows how structural racism, including the inequitable distribution of resources, residential racial segregation and distribution of opportunities not only harms children of color, but privileges white children.” According to the study, New York City saw the biggest increase in violence, but the researchers said this was likely because of a low starting baseline. Prior to the pandemic, New York pediatric firearm assault data hovered around five children per 100,000; by 2021, it increased to nearly nine children per 100,000. “We might tend to expect bigger proportional increases in places with a lower baseline because there is more room to move,” Jay said. “But the important direction for this work to go is to understand what these disparities look like across different communities and identify the drivers, particularly modifiable drivers.”


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