This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Race and Place Are Important Correlates of Firearm Violence in Philadelphia

The ease with which Americans can purchase guns has been a long-standing contentious issue in this country, but the risk of being a shooting victim is not shared equally in the population. Chicago has been in the news, especially after Pres. Trump threatened to "send in the Feds" to deal with city's problems. But Chicago is certainly not alone in having excessive gun violence, as pointed out by a paper published today in the American Journal of Public Health (available as open source).

The study used well-established spatial demographic methods for the analysis, geocoding addresses of firearm assault victims for the years 2013 and 2014, and then using American Community Survey data to categorize each neighborhood's demographics. The results were intriguing:
Firearm assaults were concentrated in low-income areas with predominantly Black residents. Although living in a higher-income area was protective for the population overall, it did not protect Black residents from firearm violence to the same degree as White residents. In fact, Black residents of the city’s wealthiest block groups had the highest relative risk of firearm injury when compared with White residents. Therefore, unlike previous research in Chicago, race does not appear to be a surrogate for economic status in determining violent firearm injury risk in Philadelphia. Rather, our findings echo those of Kalesan et al., who found that nationally, Black children were more likely than White children to be hospitalized with firearm injury regardless of neighborhood income level.
The study is largely descriptive, and the authors admit that they aren't sure why these patterns exist, but the first step toward a solution is obviously to identify the problem. Their map below shows that firearm violence is not spatially random in Philadelphia, so the hot spots are the obvious starting points.

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