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Social Vulnerability Index is Strongly Associated with Pediatric Firearm Violence in Four Major U.S. Cities
Ann M. Polcari, *Mark B. Slidell, Kylie Callier, Lea E. Hoefer, Tanya L. Zakrison, *Marion C. Henry, Andrew J. Benjamin
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Background (issue): The Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) identifies communities at-risk for adverse effects due to natural or human-caused crises. Firearm violence is a public health crisis. We sought to determine if SVI could predict firearm violence among children in four major US cities: Chicago (CHI), New York City (NYC), Philadelphia (PHL), and Los Angeles (LA).
Methods: The CDC’s 2018 SVI data was merged on census tract with 2015-2022 open-access shooting incident data in children <19 y.o. from CHI, NYC, PHL, and LA. Univariate and multivariate negative binomial regression and cubic regression were performed to uncover associations between firearm violence, SVI, and SVI themes. Choropleth maps were used for visual interpretation.
Findings: SVI was associated with firearm violence among children in CHI, NYC, PHL, and LA. For each decile increase in SVI, there was a 60% increase in pediatric shootings in CHI (RR 1.60, CI 1.55-1.66, p<0.001), 48% in NYC (RR 1.48, CI 1.39-1.57, p<0.001) and PHL (RR 1.48, CI 1.37-1.59, p<0.001), and 40% in LA (RR 1.40, CI 1.35-1.46, p<0.001). Socioeconomic Status was significantly associated with pediatric firearm violence in all cities (RR 1.47 CHI, 1.30 NYC, 1.59 PHL, 1.20 LA), largely driven by the sub-theme Poverty.
Conclusions (implications for practice): This is the first study to demonstrate a strong association between SVI and pediatric shooting incidence in multiple major US cities. Disparities in neighborhood vulnerability and social mobility may be driving gun violence. Thus, SVI can identify communities of focus for intervention and prevention. While policies to prevent firearm violence are often state-level or police-related, this study shows the need to combat pediatric gun violence by reducing community vulnerability.


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