Gun Violence in America

Project Overview
In collaboration with Professor Robert Sampson of the Harvard Department of Sociology, CSI has been awarded a grant by the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research ( to address three challenges to research on urban gun violence in the US: (1) a lack of data on exposure to guns and gun violence over the extended life course; (2) the understudied role of compounded disadvantage among individuals, families, and communities; and (3) a lack of analytic focus on societal change.

The last quarter-century has witnessed widespread changes, including large declines in violence, mass incarceration, the loosening of gun laws, and sharp fluctuations in policing. The purpose of this project is to examine the correlates and consequences of gun violence over the life course during this period of dramatic social change.

Methodological Approach
This study will enlarge and analyze longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN)—a representative and diverse sample of more than 1,000 members of four birth cohorts of Chicago children who were followed over four waves of interviews (1995-2012). At baseline, the cohorts ranged from newborns to ages 9, 12, and 15.  The PIs will analyze existing waves of data and multiple extensions including longitudinal data on neighborhood gun violence. Further, they will conduct and analyze a new, fifth survey wave to be carried out in early 2021. The integrated PHDCN+ data collection will cover the last quarter-century of American history when children from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds were growing up and becoming adults. The multi-cohort design comprising birth to age 41, combined with the comprehensive data collection, permits examination of gun violence over the life course during a period of considerable social change.


Gun violence and criminal justice have changed dramatically in the last quarter-century, yet cohort differences in aging through this period have largely unstudied consequences for children’s development, and in turn for effective policies. The project will unite the study of gun violence with the study of the changing life course.