Study Links School Shootings to Unemployment

The findings suggest a possible connection between school shootings and student concern over economic prospects.

A study of gun violence in U.S. schools found a correlation between unemployment rates and the likelihood of a school shooting.

The Northwestern University study concluded that the probability of gun violence at K-12 schools and colleges increases as it becomes harder for people coming out of school to secure jobs, according to

“Our study indicates that increases in gun violence in our schools can result from disappointment and despair during periods of increased unemployment, when getting an education does not necessarily lead to finding work,” says sociologist John L. Hagan of the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Professor of Sociology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

For the study, titled Economic Insecurity and the Rise in Gun Violence at US Schools, researchers analyzed statistics on gun violence in schools and several economic metrics including unemployment from 1990 to 2013.

In total, 381 events met the researcher’s definition of gun violence on school campuses during that period. The study only counted incidents involving students or school employees and includes accidental discharges.

Some other findings in the study are listed below. For additional information and charts, view the slideshow.

  • The majority of school shootings are targeted, with the shooter intending to harm a specific person
  • Institutions of higher education are at an especially high risk of gun violence during periods of heightened unemployment
  • During the most recent years studied, 2007 to 2013, there was a higher frequency of gun violence at schools than from 1994 to 2007. Violence between 2007 and 2013 mostly occurred at postsecondary schools.
  • Gang-related gun violence makes up only 6.6 percent of all incidents
  • Gun violence at schools has not become more deadly over time
  • Despite some perceptions, Chicago schools are not any more dangerous than other schools in large cities

The complete study was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior on Jan. 30.

View the slideshow for all the data charts.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo