A Spatial Examination of Gun Violence in New Jersey

While gun violence in New Jersey is relatively lower than most states in the country, an average of 254 people die from gun homicides with another 543 wounded by gun assaults every year. Interpersonal gun violence is not evenly distributed throughout space or among race/ethnicity, gender, and age demographics. Instead, it affects certain municipalities and young Black and Hispanic men disproportionately. Eight cities – Atlantic City, Camden, East Orange, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, and Paterson – accounted for approximately 61% of the 1,100 firearm homicide deaths in the state from 2016 through the end 2020. Black and Hispanic New Jerseyans represent 76.7% and 15%, respectively, of those killed by firearm homicides over that same five-year period; 87.8% of those killed are men and 70.2% are between the ages of 15 and 34. 
Despite these broad descriptive statistics, less is known about where – specifically – transactional gun violence is occurring throughout the state, and which features of those places contribute to shootings. Previous analyses on the topic that have used cities/municipalities as the unit of analysis may suffer from the “ecological fallacy”, which suggests there is more opportunity to conceal variation across geographic spaces that is less visible at larger levels of aggregation. Cities/municipalities have a substantial mix of different neighborhoods with vastly different economic characteristics as well as population demographics within their overall spatial boundaries. Therefore, the degree to which gun violence is concentrated within and across neighborhoods in the state is less clear. There is no central publicly available dataset that identifies gun violence in New Jersey across smaller, more micro units of analysis. As such, the purpose of this study is 1) to construct a dataset to identify, map, and spatially explore transactional gun violence in the more than 2,000 census tracts within cities/municipalities in New Jersey, 2) to merge those measures of gun violence in census tracts with other data sources in order to contextualize better the neighborhoods in which gun violence is occurring, and 3) to empirically examine which census tract characteristics (e.g., economic disadvantage, population density) are associated with transactional gun violence. 

Funded By:
New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center

Project Status:
In progress

Principal Investigator (PI):
John Shjarback, PhD

Amount Awarded: