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Black and Hispanic people in Chicago exposed to gun violence at ‘significantly and persistently higher rate,’ report says

A new study found disparities in the rate that Black, Hispanic and White people are exposed to gun violence in Chicago. (Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Black and Hispanic people who grew up in Chicago were exposed to gun violence at a “significantly and persistently higher rate” by age 40 than their White counterparts, a new report shows.

The findings were published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open and stem from a survey that followed the lives of thousands of children in Chicago since the mid-1990s. In the new report, researchers examined the exposure that some of the survey’s participants had to gun violence from 1995 to 2021.

Researchers from Harvard University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford analyzed the answers of 2,418 participants — including Black, Hispanic and White people who were born in 1981, 1984 and 1996 — and found that witnessing or becoming a victim of gun violence varied by race or ethnicity and age.

By the time the participants turned 40, about 56% of Black respondents and nearly 55% of Latinos said they had seen someone else get shot, compared with nearly 26% of White respondents, the report says.

While only 6.4% of all respondents said they had been shot by age 40, the report shows a disparity among the racial and ethnic groups. About 7% of Black and Latino participants said they had been shot, compared with 3.1% of White participants.

Researchers said changes in society were key factors on whether and at what stage a person was exposed to gun violence. Those who were born in 1987, they said, had the lowest incidence of being shot because they were teenagers when gun violence was “at its lowest point in the past 3 decades.”

The findings may not be representative of the entire country as they are centered in the experiences of people in Chicago, the report says, but violence rates and trends in the city — America’s third largest — may be parallel to those in other major cities.

The report does not offer details on the consequences of gun violence exposure, but a commentary by Dr. Jonathan Jay that was published Tuesday along with the new study says exposure to it has lasting impacts for youths and their loved ones.

Indirect or direct exposure “can influence mental and physical health outcomes over the life course” and “it is crucial to continue scaling up public health programs to halt the violence surge and deal with its aftermath, especially through community-based outreach programs and trauma-informed services,” said Jay, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health who was not involved In the new research.

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