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Won’t You be My Neighbor? Neighborhood Characteristics Associated with Mass Shootings in the USA

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Abstract

We measure the association between neighborhood characteristics and mass shootings building on existing research on neighborhoods and social and economic composition and crime. Using publicly available national data from the Gun Violence Archive (2014–2019), we geocoded and merged mass shooting incidents with US Census American Community Survey data. Our bivariate results suggest that census tracts with a mass shooting are more economically disadvantaged and have greater concentrations of black and Hispanic residents. In multivariate models, the association with concentrated disadvantage is no longer significant and the likelihood of a mass shooting increases until the proportion of black residents reaches 80%, at which point the likelihood decreases, controlling for other community characteristics. Further, as the proportion of black residents and the level of disadvantage increase together, the odds of a mass shooting incident in that tract are reduced. To address and prevent mass shootings, an expanded theory of neighborhood crime that incorporates the unique nature of mass shootings needs to consider structural racism, racial dynamics, and protective factors in relationship to economic conditions.

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All data are publicly available.

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Coding of data are available upon request.

Notes

  1. There were only 260 tracts with two or more mass shootings during our multi-year study period, which is 0.38% of the tracts in the analytic sample.

  2. This “neighbors” variable is a polygon continuity measure that was created using the “edges and corners” function in ArcGIS Pro, which essentially includes information from any tract that is adjacent to and/or touching the focal tract. As a robustness check, we also created a measure for the average number of mass shootings per neighboring tract. The results for both sets of models were very similar.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Cyrus J. Schleifer for statistical consultation and Steven Hewett for assistance with geocoding.

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No external funding was received for this research.

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Correspondence to Erin J. Maher.

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Maher, E.J., Gerlinger, J., Wood, A.D. et al. Won’t You be My Neighbor? Neighborhood Characteristics Associated with Mass Shootings in the USA. Race Soc Probl 14, 223–237 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-021-09350-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-021-09350-3

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