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Current Trends Homicide Surveillance: High-Risk Racial and Ethnic Groups -- Blacks and Hispanics, 1970 to 1983

The following summary is from the Homicide Surveillance Report, "High-Risk Racial and Ethnic Groups--Blacks and Hispanics, 1970 to 1983", issued by CDC in November 1986*:

Although great strides have been made in improving the health of the American people, a marked disparity remains in the burden of death and illness faced by blacks and other minorities relative to the white population. High rates of homicide mortality among blacks and other minorities account for much of this disparity (1).

Homicide is the leading cause of death among blacks 15-34 years of age. Overall, homicide is the third leading cause of years of potential life lost (YPLL) for blacks. For whites and persons of other races, it is the sixth leading cause of YPLL. For the period 1970 to 1983, the crude homicide mortality rate for blacks was 37.4 per 100,000, 6.7 times the rate for whites (5.6) and 4.4 times the rate for persons of other races (8.5). Homicide rates for blacks decreased by 21.7% from 1970 to 1983, whereas homicide rates for whites increased by 30.2% (Figure 1). Despite these trends, homicide rates for blacks were still 5.3 times greater than rates for whites in 1983. Black males had the highest rates (approaching 100 per 100,000 for those 25-34 years of age) followed by black females, white males, males and females of other minority races, and white females. For each racial category, homicide rates were highest in the West. A slightly higher proportion of black than white victims were killed by persons known to them, by firearms, and under circumstances unrelated to another felony.

In the Southwest, Hispanics were at intermediate homicide risk, with lower rates than those of blacks but almost three times the rate of non-Hispanic whites in the region. Almost all the increased risk for Hispanics was among Hispanic males. In the Southwest, firearms and explosives were the weapons used in 70.3% of homicides among blacks, 65.1% of homicides among Hispanics, and 58.7% of homicides among non-Hispanic whites. Among Hispanic males, one-fourth of all homicides were committed with cutting and piercing instruments, compared with 18.1% and 18.5% among non-Hispanic white males and black males, respectively.

Certain patterns of homicide mortality in the United States were common to all racial and ethnic groups. Specifically, homicide rates were highest among males and young adults; at least half of all victims were killed with firearms, most of which were handguns. Most homicides occurred during the course of an argument or other nonfelony circumstance, and most victims knew their assailants. While identifying high-risk racial and ethnic groups helps to target resources and programs for homicide research and prevention, these common patterns suggest that preventive interventions may be applicable to the entire population. Reported by: Div of Injury Epidemiology and Control, Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control, CDC.


  1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1985. *Copies of the full report may be obtained by writing Patrick O'Carroll, M.D., Koger Center, Mailstop F36, 1600 Clifton Road, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.

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