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Murder Rate for U.S. Black Women Is 6 Times That of Whites
  • Posted February 9, 2024

Murder Rate for U.S. Black Women Is 6 Times That of Whites

Black women in the United States are six times more likely, on average, to be murdered than white women, a new study finds.

And that risk runs even higher when looking at specific states and time periods, researchers report Feb. 7 in The Lancet journal.

For example, Black women were 20 times more likely to be murdered than white women in Wisconsin for 2019-2020, researchers found.

“As a scholar whose research examines intimate partner violence, I have long known that there were disparities in homicide rates between Black and white women,” said lead researcher Bernadine Waller, a postdoctoral research fellow of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

“To uncover the fact that Black women are murdered at rates as high as 20 to 1 is heartbreaking and underscores the urgent need to make substantive structural shifts,” Waller added in a university news release.

For the study, Waller and colleagues analyzed public health data to look at homicide rates for Black and white women between 1999 and 2020. The analysis focused on women ages 25 to 44 in the 30 states with enough homicides -- more than nine in any year -- to include in the study.

Results were produced for five time periods: 1999-2003, 2004-2008, 2009-2013, 2014-2018 and 2019-2020.

Black women consistently had higher homicide rates compared to white women across the entire two decades and in every state analyzed, results show.

For example, the overall homicide rate among Black women in 2020 was 11.6 per 100,000 population, compared with 3 per 100,000 for white women.

That's essentially the same as the rates in 1999, which were 11.6 for Black women and 2.9 for white women.

The Midwest had the greatest disparities among all U.S. regions; there, Black women were over seven times more likely to be murdered than white women.

Researchers noted that the states with the greatest disparities in homicide rates also had a high proportion of poor people living close together. Those areas also tend to have histories of slavery and lynching, and were the sites of the most tense Black Lives Matter protests during the pandemic.

“Our findings indicate that the greatest inequities are in the areas of the country where concentrated disadvantage is pronounced. Thus, focusing on historical structural racism's long-lasting legacy in the U.S .is imperative,” said co-researcher Victoria Joseph, an epidemiological data analyst in with the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

“Efforts aimed at reducing disproportionate homicide deaths among Black women can be implemented through addressing the role of structural racism when it comes to policies and practices that increase Black women's risk and lessen Black women's access to much needed resources,” Joseph added in a university news release.

Overall, firearms-related deaths among both Black and white women increased during the two decades, with women in general more than twice as likely to be shot to death in 2019-2020 than in 1999-2013.

But the race-based risk increased more for Black women, and also varied by region.

In 2020, Black women in the Northeast were three times more likely to be killed by a gun, while in the Midwest they were over six times more likely and in the South they were one and a half times more likely.

“Available data indicate that homicides in the U.S. continued to escalate in many areas of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, which also intersected with widespread national protests after the murder of George Floyd,” said senior study author Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia.

“These trends reflect systems that have long disserviced communities of color, and underscore that sustained investment and vision to support underserved communities are critical to reverse racial injustices that impact health and well-being,” Keyes added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about firearms-related homicides by race.

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, Feb. 8, 2024

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