“Racial” Differences in Mortality Risk and Gun Ownership

Mortality by Race and Gun in the Household--National Death Index-GSS

Mortality by Race and Gun in the Household–National Death Index-GSS

I’ve been plotting my next move, and examining mortality risk for gun owners using the General Social Survey linked to the National Death Index. Simple analyses are often not very revealing, since so much goes into mortality when you have both left and right censoring based on age (because the GSS is cross sectional, not all people have the same duration of risk, and they don’t enter the sample at the same age). But, one thing that I notice quite clearly is that there are pronounced differences in the association between gun ownership and mortality across the simple “race” classifications in the GSS. Having a gun in the household has no effect on whether or not white people turned up dead in the National Death Index—28% for both gun owners and non-gun owners. In contrast, there is a whopping 10% difference for African Americans. For  African Americans, 41% of gun owners turned up dead in the NDI, while only 31% of African Americans who didn’t have a gun in the home wound up in the NDI. A similar gap is found for “other” non-whites—24% of gun owners turn up dead, while only 16% who don’t have a gun are found in the NDI.

A lot goes into explaining these gaps. For whites, there are high rates of gun ownership, and  many of the gun owners live in rural areas and live bucolic existences free from the stresses and strains of the real world. For non-whites, gun ownership may be more of a signal of the presence of danger and conflict in their contextual settings or even their personal lives….But, I have to finish this other book before I get into more of this, and disentangle many of the other fascinating things revealed using more sophisticated analyses.



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