University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Homicide: A Leading Cause of Death for Black Non-Hispanics in Wisconsin

Zachary Dunton, BS; Stephen Hargarten, MD, MPH; Sara Kohlbeck, MPH; Fauzia Osman, MPH

WMJ. 2021;120(Suppl 1):S6-S9.

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Importance: Wisconsin has the second-highest Black homicide rate in the country, reporting a rate of 37.57 deaths per 100,000 Black non-Hispanic Wisconsinites. Meanwhile, White non-Hispanics experience a homicide rate of 2.0 deaths per 100,000.

Objective: This data identifies a public health disparity that deserves further investigation. This study seeks to detail the mortality rate of all-cause homicide, firearm-related homicide, non-firearm-related homicide, and legal intervention firearm-related homicide; leading causes of death; average age of death; and years of potential life lost (YPLL) between White non-Hispanics and Black non-Hispanics in Wisconsin during 2000-2017.

Design: Wisconsin homicide rates, ranked leading causes of death, and average age of death were obtained through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services via the Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) Query System. National data were obtained through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Homicide rates, ranked leading causes of death, average age of death, and YPLL were compared by mechanism of injury, county of residence, and race and ethnicity.

Participants and Exposures: The entire population of Black non-Hispanic Americans and White non-Hispanic Americans during 2000-2017 was included. For comparison, this was narrowed to the population of Black non-Hispanic Wisconsinites and White non-Hispanic Wisconsinites during 2000-2017. Exposure groups include all homicide victims during 2000-2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures: We hypothesized that Black non-Hispanic Wisconsinites would have a significantly worse burden of disease compared to White non-Hispanic Wisconsinites, as well as Black non-Hispanic Americans.

Results: This study found that firearm-related homicide rates for Black non-Hispanics compared to White non-Hispanics were 14.6 times greater in Milwaukee, 29.9 times greater in Wisconsin, and 13.0 times greater in urban counties of the United States. Firearm-related homicide is the second-leading cause of death for Black non-Hispanics in Milwaukee and the fourth-leading cause of death in Wisconsin. YPLL per person for Black non-Hispanic victims of firearm-related homicide are 36.83 years in Milwaukee and 37.04 years in Wisconsin.

Conclusion and Relevance: Our findings strongly suggest that Black non-Hispanic Wisconsinites endure a significantly worse burden of firearm-related homicide compared to White non-Hispanic Wisconsinites and Black non-Hispanic Americans. This study demonstrates a significant disparity in firearm-related homicide that should inspire policy discussion.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis (Dunton); Comprehensive Injury Center, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis (Hargarten, Kohlbeck); Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis (Osman).
Corresponding Author: Stephen Hargarten, MD, MPH, Director, Comprehensive Injury Center, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 W Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226; phone 414.333.4218; email
Funding/Support: The authors acknowledge the support of a summer research award from the Herman and Gwendolyn Shapiro Foundation.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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