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Black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by cops than white teens

A memorial to Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
A memorial to Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

A new report from ProPublica analyzes data from the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Report on teenagers shot by police from 2010 to 2012. The report concludes that black teens are 21 times more likely than white teens to be killed by police officers.

As the report says: "One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica's analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week."

The FBI data that the ProPublica report used is extremely limited, as Vox explained when we analyzed the FBI's 2012 data in August. But it's fair to consider it a minimum for how many people are killed by police in America. (For more on how the FBI collects its data, and what the limitations are, click here.)

Looking at police-shooting victims of all ages

The ProPublica data focuses on young victims. That highlights just how much likelier young black men are to be killed by police. (Young Hispanic men are also at greater risk.) But across all age groups, another interesting trend emerges: black and Hispanic victims of police shootings are overwhelmingly young, while white victims are more likely to be middle-aged. From Vox's analysis of the FBI's 2012 data:

FBI 2012 SHR justifiable homicide age race

As we wrote in August:

John Roman of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute says these numbers indicate that many white justifiable-homicide victims are killed by police who are intervening in a domestic-violence dispute. Broader research on all types of homicide, he says, shows that victim and offender ages fall into a few distinct groups: "You see one peak with little kids with infanticide, one peak with teenagers shooting each other, and then you see another big blip where the age of the victim and the offender are the same and they could be in their 30s, 40s or 50s. And that's mainly domestic violence. So when you see whites being shot by police officers, who are older than their early 20s, that's almost certainly domestic violence."

The concentration of death among young black and Hispanic men, meanwhile, is in part a demonstration that those are the people most likely to encounter police officers. They're the ones most likely to be arrested, and most likely to be living in the neighborhoods where police most frequently patrol.

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