Study: 50 Percent of Chicagoans Witness Shooting by Age 40

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Around 50 percent of Chicagoans will have personally encountered a shooting incident before reaching the age of 40 as a result of skyrocketing crime rates, according to a recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


The findings were part of a comprehensive study that tracked the lives of Chicago residents from their childhood and adolescence in the 1990s until the beginning of middle age. The study found that 56 percent of black and Hispanic individuals have witnessed at least one shooting incident by the time they reached the age of 40.

The research also determined that white residents were less likely to be exposed to gun violence compared to their black and Hispanic counterparts, although the percentage remains considerably high. Approximately 25 percent of white Chicagoans say they had witnessed a shooting before reaching the age of 40.

Overall, it was determined that 50 percent of the study’s participants had encountered gun violence by the time they turned 40. The average age of witnessing a shooting was found to be just 14 years old.

Within the study group, it was observed that over seven percent of Black and Hispanic individuals had experienced being shot themselves before reaching the age of 40, while the percentage was three percent among white individuals. On average, the age at which individuals were shot was found to be 17 years old.

Additionally, the researchers conducted a comparison of the locations where gun violence incidents occurred in the year leading up to the recent study interviews conducted in 2021. The rates of shootings within a 250-meter radius of Black participants’ homes were more than 12 times higher than those of white participants. Similarly, the rates of shootings near the homes of Hispanic individuals were nearly four times higher compared to those of white individuals.


It is worth noting that the research team continued to collect data from participants who had moved out of the city, although the majority of gun violence incidents were concentrated within Chicago.

The researchers argue that living with the constant threat of gun violence likely imposes a “cumulative physiological toll” on the citizens of Chicago, as well as on individuals residing in crime-ridden cities across the United States.

The study was originally carried out by a University of Cambridge criminologist in collaboration with researchers from Harvard and Oxford universities.

Study lead Dr. Charles Lanfear from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology explained:

Existing evidence suggests that the long-term stress of exposure to firearm violence can contribute to everything from lower test scores for schoolkids to diminished life expectancy through heart disease.

We expected levels of exposure to gun violence to be high, but not this high. Our findings are frankly startling and disturbing. A substantial portion of Chicago’s population could be living with trauma as a result of witnessing shootings and homicides, often at a very young age.

It is clear that Black people in particular are often living in a very different social context, with far higher risks of seeing and becoming victims of gun violence in the streets near their homes lasting into middle age.


The participants for the study were chosen from households that were randomly selected from a predetermined list of eighty districts in Chicago. These districts were thoughtfully selected to represent a diverse range of racial backgrounds and varying levels of social advantages or disadvantages present throughout the city.

The findings underline the dire situation facing Chicago’s incoming socialist mayor Brandon Johnson, who has made a point of being even softer on crime than the outgoing Lori Lightfoot. The city currently has one of the highest homicide rates in the United States, with an average of around 28.6 deaths per 100,000 people.


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