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Study Coauthored by ABF Researcher Indicates Gun Violence in Schools Linked to Economic Uncertainty

January 30, 2017, ABF news

ABF Research Professor John Hagan

A new interdisciplinary study released today by researchers at Northwestern University reveals a link between incidents of gun violence in schools and increased unemployment. The study was coauthored by John Hagan, an ABF research professor and the John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University, and data scientists Professor Adam R. Pah and Professor Luís Amaral.  

The study, entitled, “Economic Insecurity and the Rise in Gun Violence at US Schools,” was published today in the Nature Human Behaviour journal.

According to a Northwestern University press release, the study synthesizes data on U.S. school shootings regionally across the U.S. and in six cities with the highest rates of gun violence in schools, including Chicago, over a nearly 25-year period. Researchers compiled information from existing data sources on gun violence in K-12 and postsecondary schools and evaluated it against set criteria, ultimately examining 381 incidents between 1990 and 2013. Using economic indicators such as unemployment and foreclosure rates during this same period, the researchers found a strong correlation between an increase in incidents of gun violence in schools and periods of economic distress.

The research suggests that school shooting incidents may increase when the school-to-work transition is less certain. “Our study indicates that increases in gun violence in our schools can result from disappointment and despair during periods of increased unemployment, when getting an education does not necessarily lead to finding work,” says Hagan, an eminent scholar who has done extensive research on the school-to-work transition.

The release cites several of the study's key findings:

  • While Chicago is singled out in the study as one of the six cities with the most incidents from 1990 to 2013, Chicago schools are not any more dangerous than school in other large cities.
  • Gun violence has not become more deadly over time.
  • The results suggest that during periods of heightened unemployment increased gun violence may be a growing risk in American college and university settings.

“Our findings highlight the importance of economic opportunity for the next generation and suggest there are proactive actions we could take as a society to help decrease the frequency of gun violence,” Pah told Northwestern.

Read the full study here. View Northwestern’s full press release here

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