Firearm Mortality

03 Jul, 2015

Coverage of gun-related deaths by popular media outlets largely focuses on nationally important stories involving unusual situations, such as a mass shooting or premeditated murder of a police officer. In a nation witnessing a vast number of firearm homicides each year, another gun-related death hardly represents an anomalous occurrence deserving national attention. The visualizations below emphasize the differences in rates of firearm-related fatalities across race, gender, age, and other demographics. 

Gun-Related Death Rates by Race, Gender, & Age

Figure 1 shows the gun-related death rates for the African American and White male populations broken down by age groups, computed per 100,000. When considering Figure 1, a few notable patterns appear, consistent throughout the years. First, African American men in the age group 18 to 44 experience a death rate three to four times higher than that of White men. Beyond the age of 45 however, firearm death rates for Black males nearly equal those of Whites. Interestingly, firearm-related mortality rates for White males increase significantly in latter stages of life. 

(To see total fatality counts, click the “# of deaths” tab. To view statistics for females and previous years, adjust variables with the menu on the right of the graph.

Comparing Cause of Death across Race, Gender, and Age

Figure 2 looks at gun death patterns in the context of all other causes of death. The analysis uses 2010 Multiple Cause-of-Death Mortality file from the National Vital Statistics System (easy data access provided by NBER).  The data contains information on underlying causes of death (as noted on each death certificates) for all deaths occurring in the US in 2010, along with basic background information on the deceased such as their age, gender, & race. 

The numbers in the graph represent % of deaths accounted for by major causes–within each age group (filters on the right provide navigation to different race/gender combinations).  

As one would expect, unnatural causes such as accident, suicide, and homicide comprise a larger proportion of deaths in the younger populations.

More intriguing are the distribution of these causes across racial groups. For instance, homicide accounted for over half of all Black male deaths in the 15-24 age group, while only 6% of the total white male deaths in this age bracket were due to homicide. Instead, majority (51%) of the white male deaths in this age bracket are due to accidents (use the race filter to see this). Interesting patterns also appear in suicide proportions across race/gender.

The second tab “Compare race” provides the same information, contrasting racial differences in 3 unnatural causes of deaths: accidents, homicide, & suicides.

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