The epidemiology of homicide in Chicago

Steven Whitman*, Nanette Benbow, Glenn Good

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Public health agencies across the country are beginning to view violence as a problem that demands a public health response. However, before such a response can be mounted effectively, there must be a sound data-based understanding of this epidemic. With this in mind, the Chicago Department of Public Health implemented an epidemiological analysis of homicide in the city. Using vital records, police data, and census data, we found that the city's homicide rate in 1993 was 31 per 100,000 population. This rate placed Chicago 14th among other large cities in the United States and 4th out of the eight cities with a population >1 million. The homicide rate in the city has been increasing over the past 30 years, but not steadily. For some intervals, the homicide rate has remained almost constant. African Americans, Hispanics, the young, and males are overrepresented in the epidemic. While guns accounted for almost 75% of all homicides in Chicago in 1993, gangs accounted for only 15%. Homicide cannot be viewed in isolation from the context of society. The literature suggests that poverty and racism are important risk factors for this epidemic. Although we cannot wait until these risk factors are remedied to develop violence prevention interventions, we also cannot proceed effectively without understanding this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-787
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996


  • Homicide
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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