Explaining Black-White Differences in Homicide Victimization

Document Type

Review Article

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In recent decades, homicide has so truncated life expectancy in the United States that homicide victimization should be considered a public-health problem worthy of addressing via preventive programs and policies. Evidence in the literature roots homicide victimization deep within the social structure, in problematic social inequalities and disadvantages. The evidence suggests homicide victimization is associated with six demographic, social, and lifestyle factors: being male, African-American, young, of low socioeconomic status, without adequate social support, and mentally ill or a substance user. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this paper outlines theoretical mechanisms leading to racial differences in homicide victimization. It hypothesizes that Black Americans (a) are likelier than Whites to become homicide victims and, if victimized, (b) are likelier to be younger than victimized Whites. To understand these racial differences, the paper examines whether and how multiple disadvantages-at both the macro and micro level-operate against Blacks disproportionately. The paper concludes by noting further research needs and policy implications.



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