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Inequalities in Exposure to Firearm Violence by Race, Sex, and Birth Cohort From Childhood to Age 40 Years, 1995-2021

NCJ Number
JAMA Network Open Volume: 6 Issue: 5 Dated: 2023
Charles C. Lanfear; Rebecca Bucci; David S. Kirk; Robert J. Sampson
Date Published
11 pages

This study examining whether the likelihood of exposure to firearm violence varied by race, sex, and birth cohort found that the likelihood of exposure to firearm violence varied significantly and persistently over the life course by race.


In this study of exposure to firearm violence, there were stark differences by race and sex, yet the extent of exposure to violence was not simply the product of these characteristics. These findings on cohort differences suggest changing societal conditions were key factors associated with whether and at what life stage individuals from all race and sex groups were exposed to firearm violence.  Sex differences were greatest for being shot compared to witnessing or proximity to firearm violence, and cohort differences were most pronounced for witnessing violence. These finding suggest that understanding who gets exposed to firearm violence and when requires simultaneous attention to inequality by race, sex, and cohort. The authors examined race, sex, and cohort differences in exposure to firearm violence in a study of children who grew up in periods with varying rates of firearm violence in the United States. The researchers also studied spatial proximity to firearm violence in adulthood. This population-based representative cohort study included multiple cohorts of children followed-up from 1995 through 2021 in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). Male respondents were much more likely than female respondents to have been shot, but only moderately more likely to have seen someone shot. Compared with White individuals, Black individuals experienced higher rates of all 3 forms of exposure, and Hispanic respondents experienced higher rates of 2 forms of violence exposure. Respondents born in the mid-1990s who grew up amidst large declines in homicide but reached adulthood during city and national spikes in firearm violence in 2016 were less likely to have seen someone shot than those born in the early 1980s who grew up during the peak of homicide in the early 1990s. However, the likelihood of having been shot did not significantly differ between these cohorts. (Published Abstract Provided)