Number of deaths due to homicide per 100,000 population. The 2023 County Health Rankings used data from 2014-2020 for this measure.
Homicide rates are valuable to report because they provide specificity to violent crime. High levels of violent crime compromise public safety and psychological well-being.1,2
Data and methods
National Center for Health Statistics - Mortality Files
Data on deaths and births were provided by NCHS and drawn from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). These data are submitted to the NVSS by the vital registration systems operated in the jurisdictions legally responsible for registering vital events (i.e., births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and fetal deaths). In prior years of the Rankings, Premature Death was calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics, but this year the Mortality-All County (micro-data) file was requested. This allowed us to calculate Premature Death and Life Expectancy ourselves. While most calculations of mortality rates can be downloaded from CDC WONDER, the calculation of Years of Potential Life Lost and Life Expectancy requires raw data files.
Key Measure Methods
Homicides is a rate
Homicides is the number of deaths from assaults per 100,000 population. Rates measure the number of events (e.g., deaths, births) in a given time period (generally one or more years) divided by the average number of people at risk during that period. Rates help us compare data across counties with different population sizes.
Deaths are counted in the county of residence for the person who died, rather than the county where the death occurred
It is important to note that deaths are counted in the county of residence of the deceased. So, even if a homicide occurred across the state, the death is counted in the home county of the individual who died.
Some data are suppressed
A missing value is reported for counties with fewer than 10 homicide deaths in the time frame.
The numerator is the number of deaths in a county over the 7-year period due to homicide as defined by ICD-10 codes X85-Y09 (assault).
The denominator is the aggregate county population over the 7-year period.
Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress
This measure can be used to measure progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 7-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single-year estimates from the resource included below. Homicide data can also be further broken down by year and method of assault. These breakdowns could help measure the impact of interventions specific to homicide prevention.
Finding More Data
Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:
We recommend starting with the CDC WONDER database, which contains information on homicide rates by race, ethnicity, age, gender, geography, and more. Rates can be exported as raw or age-adjusted. Small counties might need to combine multiple years of data to see rates, as CDC suppresses any rates when there are fewer than 10 deaths.
1 Ellen IG, Mijanovich T, Dillman KN. Neighborhood effects on health: Exploring the links and assessing the evidence. Journal of Urban Affairs. 2001; 23:391-408.
2 University of Minnesota. 8.2. Types of Crime. In Social Problems: Continuity and Change. March 25, 2016. https://open.lib.umn.edu/socialproblems/chapter/8-2-types-of-crime/