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Chicago Adults Identify Gun Violence as Top Social Concern for Youth for Third Year in a Row

November 30, 2021

Chicago adults remain consistent in their belief that gun violence is the top social problem facing youth in the city, as measured in the latest Healthy Chicago Survey Jr., conducted by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The study found that:

  • gun violence was adults’ top social concern for youth, for the third straight year
  • racial disparities in health were the second most pressing concern, followed by racism and discrimination as the third most common concern
  • inadequate job opportunities for youth emerged as a new top 10 concern

Gun violence was named the top concern by an overwhelming 85 percent of Chicago adults across all races, genders, ages and income levels — not just for their own kids but for all children and adolescents across the city. In 2020, 4,133 youth and adults were victims of gun violence and the number of shootings in 2021 has already outpaced that number. In the August 2021 Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report, nearly a quarter (23%) of Chicago parents said their families had been personally affected by gun violence.

"Through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicagoans’ opinions about what they consider to be the biggest social challenges facing youth reveal consistently very high levels of concern about gun violence and its impact on youth in our city,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Lurie Children’s, Executive Vice-President and Chief Community Health Transformation Officer at the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children’s and Chair of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The most recent Healthy Chicago Survey Jr. was conducted from June-December 2020. Respondents included 4,517 adults in Chicago from all 77 neighborhoods, including parents and non-parents. For more information, visit chicagohealthatlas.org.

Survey respondents named racial disparities in pediatric health between White children and children of color as their second most common concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected children and adults of color, highlighting racial disparities in health within the United States.

“Chicagoans have shown us that they have a clear understanding of some of the biggest challenges facing youth in our city,” says CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD, MPH. “Many of the issues identified are social determinants of health that are closely tied to health and well-being. We are working tirelessly to address issues like racial disparities in health and poverty to ensure a healthy future for all of Chicago’s youth.”

Discrimination on the basis of race was the third most common social concern for youth well-being. This is consistent with the May 2021 Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report about everyday experiences of discrimination felt by Chicago parents, who said the most common form of discrimination they encounter is being treated with less respect and courtesy compared to other people.

Lack of job opportunities for teens was new to the top 10 list this year, ranking eighth. Adults who were older (age 46+), had lower incomes and identified as Black were more likely to consider this a big problem rather than other groups in the survey.

The top-ranked youth social concerns identified by adults in the study were:

  • Gun Violence - 85%
  • Racial Health Disparities – 74%
  • Racism and Discrimination – 73%
  • Poverty – 69%
  • Bullying and Cyberbullying – 67%
  • Lack of Parent Support and Involvement – 64%
  • Inadequate Job Opportunities for Parents – 62%
  • Inadequate Job Opportunities for Teens – 62%
  • Social Media – 57%
  • Violence in Schools – 57%

Population-focused child health research at Lurie Children’s is conducted through the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Outcomes, Research, and Evaluation Center at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of new knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries.