Homicide consistently ranks in the top three leading causes of death in the 10-24 year age group in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2010, resulted in approximately 4,800 deaths. The homicide rate, then, was 7.5 per 100,000 in this age group, the lowest for all ethnic groups in the 30-year study period, as stated in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released today by the CDC.

The CDC analyzed National Vital Statistics System data on homicide to investigate trends by sex, age, race/ethnicity, and cause of death within this age group for the period 1981-2010. Varying substantially over the period studied, homicide rates among youth rose sharply from 1985 to 1993 and then began to decline, though that trend has slowed since 1999. Despite a slower downward trend, the youth homicide rate in 2010 was 7.5 per 100,000, the lowest in the 30-year period examined.

"We are encouraged to see a decline in the homicide rate among our youth," said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.


During the 30-year study period, about four out of five of all homicides among youth were firearm homicides (the percentages ranged from 64 to 85 percent per year, resulting in 79 percent overall). In particular, during the period of 2000 to 2010 the annual rate of firearm homicide was on average 3.7 times the annual rate of nonfirearm homicide. Although the findings show a declining trend in firearm homicides during the period of 2000 to 2010, it has been slower than the declining trend of homicide by other means.

The reason that the most recent period (2000-2010) is of particular interest to the CDC is it best reflects the populations that are currently at the highest risk. For instance, homicide rates for males remained substantially higher than rates for females during the most recent period. Among the full group of youth aged 10-24 years, males, those aged 20-24 years, and blacks had the highest rates of homicide over the 30 years examined. In 2010, the homicide rates for these groups were 12.7 per 100,000 for males, 13.2 for persons aged 20-24 years, and 28.8 for blacks.

While estimated rates indicate a decline for all four racial/ethnic groups, it should be noted that, race and ethnicity were not coded separately until 1990; and, comparisons of census and death certificate reports of race and ethnicity show misclassification for Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and American Indian/Alaska Natives. During the period from 2000 to 2010, though, the rates declined for all groups, although the decline was significantly slower for males compared with females and for blacks compared with Hispanics and persons of other ethnicities.

Thirty Years

Rates rose sharply from 1985 to 1993, increasing a dramatic 83 percent, from 8.7 per 100,000 in 1985 to a high of 15.9 per 100,000 in 1993. From 1994 to 1999, the overall rate declined 41 percent, from 15.2 per 100,000 in 1994 to 8.9 in 1999. Although slower, the downward trend continues for the period 2000-2010 and remains statistically significant: approximately one percent per year.

Previous research has linked the rise and subsequent decline in homicide and violent crime in this population to changes in drug use and drug-related crime, shifting community demographics, community-based and problem-oriented policing, and varying economic conditions. Effective deterrence strategies, according to the CDC, address serious violence and crime directly.


"Comprehensive approaches that include evidence-based prevention strategies are essential to eliminate homicide as a leading cause of death of young people," Degutis said, stating that 'one homicide is one too many' among this age group

Deterrence generally includes an interagency coalition (law enforcement and social service providers), identification of crime perpetrator groups (for example, gang members), the communication of incentives to stop identified individuals from continuing violence, and activities like vocational training and substance use treatment.

According to the CDC, a number of primary prevention strategies are scientifically proven to reduce the risk for and occurrence of youth violence and provide critical complements to law enforcement approaches. One example of a primary prevention strategy is school-based programs that build the communication skills of youths to nonviolently solve problems. Family approaches that help caregivers set age-appropriate rules and effectively monitor children's activities and relationships are another form of prevention. Policy, environmental, and structural approaches that enhance safety and increase opportunities for positive social interaction also have been proven to reduce risk and occurrence of youth violence.

Source: Homicide Death Rates Among Persons Aged 10-24 Years - United States, 1981-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2013.