Firearm Hospitalization Rates for California Youth Higher in 2021, 2020 Than in 2019

Rate of Hospitalization for Firearm-Related Injuries per 100,000 California Children and Young Adults Ages 0 to 24: 2016 to 2021


Popular discussion of the harm caused by firearms often focuses on deaths, overlooking the impact of non-fatal injuries. For every child in the United States who dies due to firearms, two more are treated for bodily harm resulting from a shooting. Firearm injuries can cause lifelong physical ailments and mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For Californians under age 25, firearm injury has been a top 10 cause of hospitalization for the past five years. Nationwide, across all age groups, it is estimated that initial emergency department and hospital treatment for firearm injuries costs over $1 billion annually.

The latest data available for California show that firearm-related injury hospitalizations among young people under age 25 remain elevated. The state’s 1,315 firearm hospitalizations in 2021—representing a rate of 10.1 hospital discharges per 100,000 children and young adults—were just 70 fewer than the number recorded in 2020 (1,385—10.6 per 100,000). Both years saw substantially higher rates than 2018 or 2019, though not as high as 2016 (the first year for which comparable data are available).

Trends at the county level varied widely over this period. In San Bernardino, firearm hospitalizations almost doubled between 2016 (65 hospitalizations—7.9 per 100,000) and 2021 (118 hospitalizations—14.5 per 100,000), and San Diego saw an increase of around two-thirds. By contrast, rates fell by more than a third in Sacramento and by half in Monterey over the same period.

Data for the two most common types of firearm injury intent—assault and unintentional injury—have generally mirrored the statewide trend in gun-related hospitalizations among youth overall. Youth firearm hospitalizations due to self-harm, by contrast, have been on the rise since 2019, and were higher in 2021 than in any of the five previous years.

Demographic characteristics are associated with striking disparities in the likelihood of being hospitalized for a firearm injury. In 2021, young males in California experienced firearm injury hospitalization rates seven and a half times higher than their female counterparts. The rate of firearm injury hospitalization among African American/Black young people statewide (52.3 per 100,000) was substantially higher than for any other racial/ethnic group with data—almost five times higher than for Hispanic/Latino young people and almost 20 times higher than for white young people. And while older teens and young adults experience higher rates of firearm injury than younger children, rates among those under age 15 have been climbing steadily since 2016.

Read about strategies to prevent child and young adult injuries from firearms and other causes.


Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) Public Seminar: Modernizing Poverty Measurement

CNSTAT will host a public seminar September 29 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET addressing conceptual questions around the purposes, strengths, and weaknesses of different poverty measures. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, An Updated Measure of Poverty: (Re)Drawing the Line, will be featured.

Take Action

Comment Request: American Community Survey (ACS) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Test Questions

The U.S. Census Bureau invites public comment on its proposal to test question wording, response categories, and placement of SOGI questions on the ACS questionnaire. Of specific interest is how the questions perform when one person answers about others (or proxy reporting, which is typical in the ACS). Submit your comments by November 20.

Children’s Health Resources

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Active Transportation: Recognizing the Relationship Between Adversity, Resiliency, and Active Transportation

The California Essentials for Childhood Initiative, California Department of Public Health Active Transportation Safety Program, and All Children Thrive California have developed a brief to support efforts to meet basic transportation needs and physical activity requirements, which can foster environments in which people and communities can heal from trauma and build resilience.

The Return on Investing in Children: Helping Children Thrive

Investments in children—particularly very young children—can have short- and long-term payoffs for individuals and society at large, a recent study by Urban Institute finds. Yet only a small share of spending in the federal budget targets children, and even less will be spent on children in the coming years.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about injuries. See links to the latest here.

Posted by

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 28th, 2023 at 10:56 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Post a comment/question: