Community Gun Violence as a Social Determinant of Elementary School Achievement

Dessa Bergen-Cico, Sandra D. Lane, Robert H. Keefe, David A. Larsen, Anthony Panasci, Najah Salaam, Timothy Jennings-Bey, Robert A. Rubinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The association of indirect exposure to firearm-related violence and standardized test scores among third grade elementary school children were analyzed using geospatial mapping of police department data for all gunshots in Syracuse, NY (n = 2, 127) and state standardized test scores from 2009-2015. Confirmed gunshots were geocoded and mapped across the city and neighborhood school catchment areas. Third grade standardized New York State test scores for English Language Arts (ELA) and math were coded as dichotomous variables of proficient and below proficient scores. State standardized test scores for ELA and math were found to be 50% lower in the elementary schools located within higher concentration gunshot areas, than in elementary schools in lower gunshot areas. Higher levels of gun violence within school catchment areas were significantly associated with higher rates of ELA and math failure (p ≤.05). These findings suggest that community violence may be an important, though under recognized, social determinant of poor school performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-448
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Work in Public Health
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Nov 17 2018


  • Community violence
  • educational attainment
  • school failure
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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