Scientists behind two recent studies reported that the rates of homicides of children rose significantly in 2020, The New York Times reports. The rate of children injured by guns also increased as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.
The first study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, highlighted the trends in homicide rates for juveniles aged 0-17. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rate of children killed in the U.S. increased by about 28 percent in 2020 from 2.2 per 100,000 in 2019 to 2.8 per 100,000 in 2020. Black children and children in the southern United States make up the majority of the homicides, and most of the children are brought to hospitals with gun injuries. The data also revealed that homicide is the leading cause of death for American children.
In an editorial accompanying their research, the study's authors said the data highlighted an alarming public health concern "warranting immediate attention." The team said that child homicides are becoming "more common, not less," despite being "fundamentally preventable." The rate of child homicides has been slowly rising since 2013, a decade-long trend that spiked in the first year of the pandemic. In 2020 2,058 children aged 17 and younger were homicide victims, up from 1,611 in 2019.
JAMA Pediatrics also published a research letter by pediatric surgeons at the University of Utah School of Medicine. The study compared the number of children admitted to pediatric hospitals in the period leading up to the pandemic to the period starting in April 2020 as the pandemic reached its peak. They found that the number of children seeking treatment for gun injuries increased to 2,759 after April 2020, up from 1,815 during the first period, more than a 50 percent increase.