Posted on February 13, 2024

Black Women Are Six Times More Likely to Be Killed Than White Women, Data Reveals

Claretta Bellamy, NBC, February 9, 2024

In the U.S., Black adult women are six times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts, troubling new data reveals.

A paper published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal analyzed homicide rates of Black women ages 25 to 44 across 30 states. The data was collected between 1999 and 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System.

Homicides were classified in this study as death by shooting, piercing, cutting and other forms of violence. Racial disparities varied among states; in Wisconsin, for example, Black women were 20 times more likely to be killed than white women. Black women living in Midwestern and Northeastern states were also more likely to be killed by a firearm, the paper found.

The study was designed to provide more comprehensive data about homicide rates among Black women and fill in the gaps in the existing literature, said Bernadine Waller, the paper’s lead author and a postdoctoral psychiatry research fellow at the Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center.

Waller said she had been “very discouraged” that no one had performed research to this magnitude and was devastated to learn of the high homicide rates of Black women.

“For every one person who’s murdered, you’ve got their family members, you’ve got their friends, you’ve got their communities who are devastated,” Waller said. Many Black families have women as head of the households, she added. “So, if you’re looking at that through that lens, what does that mean for our Black families?”

Findings in the paper confirm the disproportionate rate of violence targeting Black women that domestic violence advocates, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, have been working to raise awareness of.

While researchers did not identify the causes behind the staggering difference, the paper points to structural racism, including poverty, educational attainment and employment. States with a larger share of low-income households, where people tend to live closer together, had the highest disparities of homicide rates, the paper found.