ATLANTA - The homicide rate for older children and young adults has hit its lowest point in at least three decades, but the decline has been slowing, according to a new government report.
In 2010, the rate for victims 10 to 24 was less than half the rate seen in 1993, when there was an explosion in crime tied to crack cocaine.
The report released Thursday echoes earlier findings about a national decline in killings and other crimes but offers a more focused look at one of the most affected groups. Ages 10 to 24 account for about a third of slaying victims. The highest rates are consistently seen in people in their late teens and 20s.
"That's what drives the national numbers. That's the ballgame," said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center. He was not involved in the new study.
There are various theories for the drop in youth killings and other crimes since the early 1990s, ranging from the economy to police work and public health campaigns. None completely explains the trend, said Hemenway, a member of a National Academy of Sciences group examining crime trends.
For the report, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention searched a death statistics database that goes back to 1981.
About 4,800 youths 10 to 24 were killed in 2010, the most recent year in the analysis. That translates to a homicide rate of 7.5 per 100,000 people - the lowest since 1981. It also appears to be lower than rates in the 1970s, a CDC spokeswoman said.
It hasn't been a steady trend down. The rate dropped a bit in the early 1980s, then rose sharply, peaking at about 16 per 100,000 in 1993. It plummeted for several years before the decline slowed. The rate inched down about 1 percent a year, on average, from 2000 to 2010, the CDC found.
The study showed youth homicide rates fell across the board - in males, females, whites, blacks and Hispanics.
But males and blacks continued to be killed at far higher rates than females or people in other racial and ethnic groups.