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November 22, 2021

Poverty and Firearm-Related Deaths Among US Youth

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 2Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 3Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Washington
  • 4Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(2):e214819. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.4819

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, attention has drifted away from the endemic problem of firearm-related morbidity and mortality in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2019, the most recent year for which data were available, that 39 707 people died of firearm-related injuries, of whom 19.8% were children and youth aged 5 to 24 years.1 The number of nonfatal injuries is not accurately known because of the lack of comprehensive data.2 As reported by Barrett and colleagues3 in this issue of JAMA Pediatrics, communities with high rates of poverty are disproportionately affected by firearm violence. Nearly 1 in 7 children lived in poverty in 2019, but poverty was disproportionately experienced by Alaska Native or American Indian children (20.6%), Black children (26.5% lived in poverty in 2019), and Hispanic children (20.8%) compared with White children (8.3%).4 The pandemic and social justice movements have heightened attention to the structural racism in the US that has led to more poverty and higher death rates from many diseases and injuries in these populations. Firearm-related homicides among youth aged 5 to 24 years are among the causes of death with the greatest disparities, with the 2019 rate of 38.64 fatalities per 100 000 Black boys and men compared with 3.54 fatalities per 100 000 White boys and men, and 4.65 fatalities per 100 000 Black girls and women compared with 0.82 fatalities per 100 000 White girls and women.1

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