Firearm-Related Deaths Increased Among Youth in 2020, Greatest Toll on Black Youth

For the first time, firearm-related deaths exceeded motor vehicle collisions as the leading cause of death for U.S. youth across all racial and ethnic groups in 2020, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mortality data by researchers at NIMHD.

Researchers used the CDC WONDER database to compare rates of firearm-related deaths for children and adolescents ages 1 year to 19 years across all racial and ethnic groups in 2020 and compared only Black and White youths from 1999 to 2020. The database compiles cause-of-death estimates that medical examiners list on death certificates for all U.S. counties. Firearm-related deaths include gun assaults, suicides by gun, deaths due to accidental discharge of a gun, legal intervention leading to gun death, and gun-involved deaths where the cause was unknown.

The data show a large increase in firearm-related deaths among all youth in the United States from 2019 to 2020—more than twice as high as the increase in gun-related deaths for the general population across all demographics—with Black youth enduring the most significant impact.

The chart below details the numbers and percentages of firearm deaths in 2020 across youth racial and ethnic groups in the United States. It shows that Black youth accounted for 47% of the more than 4,000 deaths among all youth. In their analysis, researchers found firearm fatality became the leading cause of death for Black youth in 2020, with approximately five Black youths dying by firearm each day.

Gun-Related Deaths Among U.S. Youth in 2020 (Ages 1 to 19 years)

Racial and Ethnic Groups No. Deaths in 2020 Percentages
Black 2,053 47.1%
White 1,376 31.6%
Latino or Hispanic 789 18.1%
American Indian and Alaska Native 68 1.6%
Asian or Pacific Islander 64 1.5%
Total 4,357* 100%

* 7 individuals were not identified in an ethnic or racial group.

From 1999 to 2020, there was a 39.2% increase in gun-related deaths for Black youth compared to 16.4% for White youths during the same time, despite Black youth comprising 15.2% of the U.S. population of 1- to 19-year-olds and White youth comprising 52.2% of the same age group.

Further, the rate of gun-related deaths for Black youth has increased every year since 2013, with a 108.3% increase from 2013 to 2020 compared to a 47.8% increase for White youth during the same time.

The researchers suggest the increase in firearm-related deaths in 2020 may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest occurring during that time. In this study, researchers did not stratify the data, meaning additional information about which youth racial and ethnic groups, gender groups, or age groups in various locations across the United States died by firearm assaults versus suicides by gun, legal intervention leading to gun death, or other methods is not available from this analysis.

Study authors suggest strategic public health interventions may curtail firearm-related violence and prevent related deaths, noting the Cure Violence Model, a public health approach to firearm-related violence that identifies people at high risk of firearm-related violence and teaches alternative conflict resolution methods.

Mariño-Ramírez, L, Jordan, I.K., Nápoles, A.M., & Pérez-Stable, E. J. (2022). Comparison of US gun-related deaths among children and adolescents by race and ethnicity, 1999-2020. Journal of the American Medical Association, 328(23), 2359-2360.

Researchers in NIMHD’s Division of Intramural Research conducted this analysis in collaboration with the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

Page created Oct. 10, 2023