Social context and geographic patterns of homicide among US black and white males

Am J Public Health. 2000 Apr;90(4):579-87. doi: 10.2105/ajph.90.4.579.


Objectives: The recently published Atlas of United States Mortality depicted striking regional differences in homicide rates for Black and White males in the United States. This study examined these rates to gain an understanding of the contribution of social context to geographic variability in homicide.

Methods: Homicide rates were calculated by health service area for the years 1988 to 1992. The contributions of age, geographic location, urbanization, and sociostructural characteristics were evaluated by means of a weighted linear mixed effects model.

Results: Regional differences in urbanization explained much of the geographic variation in homicide rates, but sociostructural factors also had a significant impact. The results suggest that these effects operate similarly for White and Black males, although differences were found in the magnitudes of the effects for the 2 groups.

Conclusions: Results point to a strong association between homicide and urbanization and socioeconomic conditions in all regions of the country for both Black and White males. These findings shed light on the potential correlates of high homicide rates in the United States in the near future.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Problems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data*