Study: School Shootings More Likely When Unemployment Rises

EVANSTON, Ill. — A new data analysis finds a positive correlation between school shootings and a high unemployment rate in the United States.

The study, published in the journal Nature, looked at a set of 379 campus shootings between 1990 and 2013. Their analysis included two of the period’s most infamous incidents 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting and 1999’s Columbine shooting.

When the economy sours, the chances of a school shooting rise, researchers found.

The researchers identified two distinct periods in the years examined during which there was an uptick in shootings: from 2007 to 2013, when there was an influx of university-based rampages, and from 1992 to 1994, a time when K-12 institutions were primarily targeted.

An unemployment rate exceeding 5.7%, either on a local or national level, was found to dramatically increase the likelihood of a school shooting. The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.7%.

Some critics have come out to question the findings, noting that most school-age youth do not work, and thus, usually do not directly feel the impact of low hiring rates.

In the analysis, the study’s authors present evidence that “joblessness is related to lowered self-esteem, diminished status and detrimental behaviour.” They also argue that malleable young minds are receptive to both their own job prospects and those of their parents, and school violence often signals a repressed sense of hopelessness.

The researchers noted that they looked at all sources of school gun violence, not just mass shootings. They also emphasized that most mass shootings do not occur as schools.

“There’s sort of a loss of hope and increasing anger,” Luis Amaral, a physicist and co-director of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, which issued the study, told the New York Daily News. “We think there is a kind of anger that gets pent up as these things happen and it comes out as violence.”

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