Black women are six times more likely to be killed than white women, a new report has found.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal Thursday, analyzed homicide rates of women 25 to 44 years old in 30 different states between 1999 to 2020.
It found that Black women are more likely to be killed by shooting, piercing, cutting or other types of violence than white women.
Black women are also more likely to be killed with a firearm than white women.
The greatest disparities were found in Wisconsin, where Black women were 20 times more likely to be murdered than white women between 2019 and 2020.
Bernadine Waller, lead author of the paper, called the disparities “heartbreaking.”
“As a scholar whose research examines intimate partner violence, I have long known that there were disparities in homicide rates between Black and White women,” Waller, a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral research fellow, said in a statement.
“To uncover the fact that Black women are murdered at rates as high as 20 to 1 in some states is heart-breaking and underscores the urgent need to make substantive structural shifts.”
The report found that intimate partner violence is a key component behind homicide rates of Black women.
The findings coincide with data from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which found that about 45 percent of Black women have experienced stalking, physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. An estimated 51 percent of Black women adult homicides were related to intimate partner violence.
The homicide rates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the data found, which also followed the widespread national protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
These two incidents are not disconnected, said Katherine Keyes, senior author of the paper.
“These trends reflect systems that have long disserviced communities of colour, and underscore that sustained investment and vision to support underserved communities are critical to reverse racial injustices that impact health and wellbeing,” said Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
The study was able to determine that the disparities were most prevalent throughout the Midwest. Outside of Wisconsin, Midwestern Black women in 2020 were more than seven times more likely to be murdered than their white counterparts.
But the racial disparities were also higher in areas where those of low socioeconomic status lived. These are the same areas with histories of racial violence, such as lynchings, the report found.
Victoria A. Joseph, a co-author of the paper, said that focusing on the U.S.’s history of structural racism was “imperative” to address the disparities.
“Efforts aimed at reducing disproportionate homicide deaths among Black women can be implemented through addressing the role of structural racism when it comes to policies and practices that increase Black women’s risk and lessen Black women’s access to much needed resources,” said Joseph, a data analyst at Mailman School of Public Health Epidemiology.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was not involved in the study, said these — and all — homicides are preventable.
“The findings from Waller and colleagues’ study provide the visibility needed to address the public health crisis of homicides of women and the inequities in homicide experienced by Black women,” Rebecca F. Wilson and Janet M. Blair of the CDC wrote.
The two added that state-level legislation is needed to address the disparities.
“These legislative efforts offer a beacon of hope that the disproportionate homicide of Black women will be addressed as a crisis of epidemic scale alongside the already recognized epidemic of homicides among Black men and boys,” they said.