Business Economics and Public Policy Papers

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Journal Article

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The Journal of Risk and Insurance





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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.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lemaire, J. (2005), The Cost of Firearm Deaths in the United States: Reduced Life Expectancies and Increased Insurance Costs. Journal of Risk and Insurance, 72: 359–374. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6975.2005.00128.x, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving [link to



Date Posted: 27 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.