Child/Youth Death Rate, by Race/Ethnicity and Cause (California & U.S. Only)

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Learn More About Deaths

Measures of Deaths on provides county-level data on child and youth deaths in the following indicators:
*Cause of death data are provided for the seven leading causes of child/youth death statewide for the most recent year; leading causes for other geographies or time periods may differ.

Data presented here are for children and young adults ages 24 and younger. For detailed data on deaths among children under age 1, see's Infant Mortality topic.
Hospital Use
Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Infant Mortality
Why This Topic Is Important
The death of any young person is a tragedy. High child and youth death rates also can be an indicator of larger system issues, such as community violence or problems accessing health care. In the U.S., preventable injuries (e.g., from car accidents) are the leading cause of death for young people ages 1-24 (1). For children ages 1-4, the most common cause of unintentional injury-related death is drowning; for 5- to 24-year-olds, it is motor vehicle accidents (1). Other leading causes of death among children and young adults include suicide, homicide, cancer, heart disease, and birth defects (1). Nationwide, firearms account for more youth homicides and suicides than any other type of injury (1).

Death rates from injuries, and overall death rates, generally are higher for boys than girls (2). Inequities by race/ethnicity also persist, statewide and nationally; e.g., among groups with data, African American/black and American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth have had the highest death rates for many years (3). Many fatal injuries can be prevented through environmental, behavioral, social, and legislative change (4).
Find more information about child and youth death in's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2019). Leading causes of death reports, 1981-2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

2.  Child Trends. (2019). Infant, child, and teen mortality. Retrieved from:

3.  As cited on, Child/youth death rate, by race/ethnicity. (2019). California Department of Public Health, et al.

4.  Sleet, D. A. (2018). The global challenge of child injury prevention. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(9), 1921. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2014-16, the death rate among California children and young adults ages 1-24 was 29.4 per 100,000, compared with 39.4 deaths per 100,000 youth for the nation as a whole. California rates have been on the decline since 2004-06 and have been consistently lower than U.S. rates since 1999-2001 (the first years for which data are available). Across counties with data, youth death rates vary widely, from 18 per 100,000 (Yolo) to 80.1 per 100,000 (Calaveras) in 2014-16. Similar to statewide trends, rates declined between 2004-06 and 2014-16 in 38 of 40 counties with data.

Young adults ages 20-24 consistently have the highest death rate (64.8 per 100,000 in 2014-16) when compared with other age groups in California, while children ages 5-14 have the lowest (9.8 per 100,000 in 2014-16). Since 2000-02, African American/black and American Indian/Alaska Native youth have had the highest rates of death among groups with data; in 2014-16, the death rate for African American/black youth in California (58.8 per 100,000) was about twice that for both white (30.7 per 100,000) and Hispanic/Latino youth (28.3 per 100,000), and more than three times that for Asian/Pacific Islander youth (19.1 per 100,000). Both in California and nationwide, unintentional injuries—such as car accidents, drowning, and falls—are the leading cause of death for children and young adults ages 1-24 overall, for all age groups, and for all racial/ethnic groups with the exception of African American/black youth, for whom homicide is the leading cause of death.

In 2016, there were 662 firearm-related deaths among California children and young adults ages 24 and under, with boys and young men accounting for the vast majority (593). Homicide and suicide are the most common causes of firearm-related death across all age, gender, and racial/ethnic groups with data. Overall, the statewide rate of firearm-related deaths among youth (4.7 per 100,000 in 2014-16) has decreased since 2004-06, and has been lower than the national rate since 2008-10. Still, disparities persist among groups; e.g., in 2014-16, African American/black youth died from firearm-related injuries at a rate (20.9 per 100,000) more than four times that for Hispanic/Latino youth (4.7 per 100,000), and more than seven times that for white youth (2.7 per 100,000).
Policy Implications
Most child and youth deaths are due to accidents or otherwise preventable causes (1). Public policies aimed at prevention, education, and support of youth and families can address these causes.

Policy options that could reduce child and youth deaths include:
  • Strengthening, enforcing, and promoting awareness of motor vehicle safety laws, including those concerning car seats, seat belts, distracted or drunk driving, and Graduated Driver Licensing systems (2)
  • Preventing child abuse and neglect by promoting safe, stable, and caring relationships between caregivers and children; also addressing factors associated with child maltreatment, e.g., neighborhood economic stress and family poverty (3)
  • Providing routine and accessible mental health screening and services for youth in order to address depression and prevent suicide; also going beyond the prevention and treatment of problems to promoting positive mental health (4)
  • In accordance with California law, promoting school policies that foster a positive school climate (i.e., where students feel safe, connected, and supported at school), which is associated with lower levels of student violence and high-risk behavior, including substance use (5, 6)
  • Addressing risk factors for gang involvement and violent behavior by strengthening families and schools, teaching students social and emotional skills, and improving community supervision and engagement of youth (7)
  • Continuing efforts to ensure that all women, infants, children, and youth—particularly those with special health care needs—have access to quality medical care that is affordable, timely, comprehensive, continuous, culturally appropriate, and patient-centered (8)
  • Supporting continued pediatric cancer research to promote advances in the understanding of risk factors and treatments (9)
For more information, see’s Research & Links section and Policy Implications under these topics: Infant Mortality, Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury, Cancer, Injuries, Child Abuse and Neglect, and Gang Involvement.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  As cited on, Child/youth deaths, by age and cause. (2019). California Department of Public Health & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2019). Motor vehicle safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Preventing child maltreatment through the promotion of safe, stable, nurturing relationships between children and caregivers. Retrieved from:

4.  Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation's young people. Child Trends & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from:

5.  Lee, B. (2016). Improving school climate through LCAPs. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, California. Retrieved from:

6.  Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from:

7.  Simon, T. R., et al. (Eds.). (2013). Changing course: Preventing gang membership. National Institute of Justice & National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from:

8.  Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, & National Academy for State Health Policy. (2017). Standards for systems of care for children and youth with special health care needs (Version 2.0). Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health. Retrieved from:

9.  National Cancer Institute. (2019). Childhood cancers research. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Deaths