Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gun Violence and Life Expectancy

The Crime Report included this recent summary of an interesting New York Times article by columnist Clyde Haberman. The columnist noted that gun violence in New York City has helped create a gender gap in life expectancy.

A female born in the city in 2008 has a life expectancy of 82 years years, while the typical male will live to 76. Haberman says the difference comes in “the tendency of all too many young men, defined as those 18 to 34, to settle disputes with guns. In that age group, men are nine times likelier than women to become homicide victims. They account for half of all such victims in the city, though they make up only 12 percent of the population.” He adds, “Whenever someone dies really young, life expectancy for the entire city dips.”

The Crime Report noted that the decline in violent crime is a big reason that life spans have risen sharply over the last two decades. In today’s New York, with about 500 homicides a year, people can expect on average to live six and a half years longer than they could in 1990, when there were more than 2,200 murders.

Even today, young black men are homicide victims at three times the rate of Latinos, 12 times that of white men and 70 times that of men of Asian background. “But strictly as a health matter, getting rid of guns is a no-brainer,” Haberman writes. “If homicides could miraculously be made to disappear in New York, the health department says, the gender gap in life expectancy would be cut almost in half for that 18-to-34 age group. It means that a lot of young men would have many more years of real living instead of a courtship with death.”

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