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Science Figures Interpreted and Analyzed by RealClearScience

Youth Homicide Rates by Race in the U.S.

By Alex B. Berezow

The George Zimmerman trial has refocused the national dialogue on race relations in America. Last week, President Barack Obama weighed in, saying, "African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system... they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence." Is he correct?

Yes. A new study released by the CDC provides data on homicide rates among American youth (aged 10-24) by race/ethnicity. (See graph.)

Before analyzing this graph, it is worth noting that homicide disproportionately affects American youths. Murder is usually a top 3 leading cause of death in youths, but it is not in the top 10 for the American population as a whole. Specifically, the youth homicide rate in 2010 was 7.5 per 100,000, while the homicide rate for the entire population was 5.3 per 100,000.

There is also a huge disparity in the youth homicide rate (per 100,000) between races in 2010:

Blacks: 28.8
Hispanics: 7.9
Whites: 2.1

Thus, the homicide rate among black youths is nearly 400% higher than the overall youth homicide rate; the homicide rate among Hispanic youths is similar to the overall youth homicide rate; and the homicide rate among white youths is 72% lower than the overall youth homicide rate. Indeed, this indicates that homicide disproportionately affects black youths.

Additionally, in August 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported:

Homicide victims usually are killed by people of their own race and ethnicity. The pattern goes back at least a generation.

Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that from 1976 to 2005, white victims were killed by white defendants 86% of the time and black victims were killed by blacks 94% of the time.

So President Obama was completely correct in indicating that violent crime is a particular problem among black youths in America.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Homicide Rates Among Persons Aged 10–24 Years — United States, 1981–2010." MMWR 62 (27): 545-548.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports."

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