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Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are murdered at an average rate that is six times more frequent than White women. In a study for The Lancet, Bernadine Waller, a postdoctoral research fellow in the psychiatry department at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, unpacks this disparity. She spoke with HPH about the study.

Why study this topic?

Initially, we were focusing on intimate partner violence homicides and on asking why we’re seeing so many homicides of Black women. And then we decided to zoom out to find out what’s going on among all homicides. When we can examine what’s underpinning [this violence] and what’s hurting the most marginalized members of our community, when we can find ways to support them, then we’re actually helping everyone in our society.

What did the study find?

On average, Black women are murdered at a rate of six times that of White women. Sometimes that disparity is even larger: In Wisconsin, between 2019 and 2020, Black women were murdered at a rate 20 times that of White women. When we overlaid the findings with a mapping of wealth inequities, we found that areas of the country with the greatest inequities were also where we saw the highest disparities of homicides. We also found that most of these homicides were committed with firearms.

What would you like to see happen based on the study’s results?

There is an urgent need for common-sense gun laws on the federal level that should not be overturned by the Supreme Court. We must also develop sustainable wealth-building opportunities, desegregated mixed-income, and affordable housing.

—Leah Rosenbaum

(Study in The Lancet, February 2024)

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