The Cost of Firearm Deaths in the United States: Reduced Life Expectancies and Increased Insurance Costs
16 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2005
The United States remains far behind most other affluent countries in terms of life expectancy. One of the possible causes of this life expectancy gap is the widespread availability of firearms and the resulting high number of U.S. firearm fatalities: 10,801 homicides in 2000. The European Union experienced 1,260 homicides, Japan only 22. Using multiple decrement techniques, I show that firearm violence shortens the life of an average American by 104 days (151 days for white males, 362 days for black males). Among all fatal injuries, only motor vehicle accidents have a stronger effect. I estimate that the elimination of all firearm deaths in the United States would increase the male life expectancy more than the total eradication of all colon and prostate cancers. My results suggest that the insurance premium increases paid by Americans as a result of firearm violence are probably of the same order of magnitude as the total medical costs due to gunshots or the increased cost of administering the criminal justice system due to gun crime.
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