J Epidemiol Community Health 58:223-230 doi:10.1136/jech.2003.011874
  • Research report

Neighbourhoods and homicide mortality: an analysis of race/ethnic differences

  1. P M Krueger1,
  2. S A Bond Huie2,
  3. R G Rogers1,
  4. R A Hummer2
  1. 1Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  2. 2Population Research Center, University of Texas, Austin, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 P M Krueger
 Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CB 327, 80309-0327, USA;
  • Accepted 24 September 2003


Objective: To examine whether measures of neighbourhood economic deprivation, social disorganisation, and acculturation explain homicide mortality differentials between Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic black Americans, and non-Hispanic white Americans, net of individual factors.

Design: Prospective study, National Health Interview Survey (1986–1994) linked to subsequent mortality in the National Death Index (1986–1997).

Setting: United States of America.

Participants: A nationally representative sample of non-institutionalised Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic black Amricans, and non-Hispanic white Americans, aged 18–50 at the point of interview.

Analysis: Cox proportional hazard models estimate the risk of death associated with various neighbourhood and individual factors.

Main results: Both individual and neighbourhood risk factors partially account for race/ethnic disparities in homicide. Homicide mortality risks are between 20% and 50% higher for residents of areas that have economic inequality of 0.50 or greater based on the coefficient of variation, or where 4% or more of the residents are Mexican American, 10% or more of the residents are non-Hispanic black, or 20% or more of the households are headed by single parents (p⩽.05). But residents of areas where 10% or more of their neighbours are foreign born have 35% lower mortality risks than people living in areas with fewer foreign born people (p⩽0.05). These differences persist even after controlling for individual level risk factors.

Conclusions: The findings support economic deprivation, social disorganisation, and acculturation theories, and suggest that both neighbourhood and individual risk factors affect race/ethnic differences in homicide mortality. Public health policies must focus on both individual and neighbourhood factors to reduce homicide risks in vulnerable populations.


  • Funding: National Science Foundation (grants SES-0243249, SES-0243189, and SES-0221093) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (grant 1 R03 HS013996-01),

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.