Black Women Are Murdered 6 Times More Than White Women

Photo by South_agency via Getty Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

by Alexa Spencer

Black women are, on average, six times more likely to be murdered than white women, according to a new report. The rates are even higher depending on where the women live and during what time period. 

The analysis, conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, analyzed two decades of homicide trends for women ages 25 to 44. Published in the Lancet on Feb. 7, the study included data from 1999 to 2020.

Three main findings: 

  • Homicide rates for Black women were notably higher in all 30 states that were analyzed, with the biggest differences occurring in states with the highest racial inequities. 
  • The greatest disparity was in Wisconsin between 2019 and 2020, where Black women were 20 times more likely to be murdered than white women. 
  • Black women were more likely to be killed by gunfire, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.

Bernadine Waller, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Psychiatry Department at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and lead author of the paper, said in a statement that, “As a scholar whose research examines intimate partner violence, I have long known that there were disparities in homicide rates between Black and white women.” 

However, “to uncover the fact that Black women are murdered at rates as high as 20 to 1 is heart-breaking and underscores the urgent need to make substantive structural shifts,” Waller said.

Black Women and Fatal Shootings

Overall, women in general were twice as likely to be killed by firearms in 2019 to 2020, compared to 1999 to 2003. Still, Black women were more likely than white women to be killed by gunfire. 

Rates of fatal shootings for Black women increased over time compared to white women. In 2020, Black women in the Northeast were three times more likely to be killed by a firearm, six times more in the Midwest, and one and a half times more in the South. Western states were excluded due to a small sample size.

Addressing Structural Racism

The findings suggest a link between high homicide rates and racial inequities; such as educational attainment, unemployment, and wealth distribution. In order to prevent high rates of homicide among Black women, structural racism must be reduced, the university wrote. 

States with the greatest disparities in homicide rates were in parts of the nation with a high number of people with low socioeconomic status living close together — areas that also tend to have histories of slavery, lynching, and where Black Lives Matter protests took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Focusing on historical structural racism’s long-lasting legacy in the U.S. is imperative,” Victoria A. Joseph, co-author of the paper and a data analyst at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement.

“Efforts aimed at reducing disproportionate homicide deaths among Black women can be implemented through addressing the role of structural racism when it comes to policies and practices that increase Black women’s risk and lessen Black women’s access to much-needed resources.”  

This story was originally published in Word in Black

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