College students of color report greater fear of crime, violence

Date: Nov 12 2018

CONTACT: Megan Lowry, 202-777-3913

San Diego, Nov. 12, 2018 – New research presented today at APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo revealed that college students of color report greater fear of crime and violence compared with white students. Researchers from the University of San Francisco noted that fear of crime is associated with negative mental health outcomes.

The study found that students of color reported statistically significantly higher levels of fear for a range of violent scenarios, including physical assault, burglary, theft, vandalism, murder, hate crimes, microaggressions, hate speech, threats and crime in general, when compared with white students. Students of color also reported higher average scores for their aggregate fear of crime than white students.

The study analyzed survey results from over 1,400 students at the University of San Francisco in 2017. The survey asked students to rate their fear of 11 crimes and aggressions on a scale from 0-to-10, with 0 meaning no fear and 10 meaning maximum fear.

While on average students of color had a mean score of 2.29 for fear of murder, white students had a mean score of 1.23. Students of color had a mean score of 3.89 on fear of hate speech, while white students had a mean score of 1.84. Both students of color and white students rated their fear of crime in general the highest, with white students reporting a mean score of 3.43 and students of color reporting a mean score of 4.53.

A greater proportion of students of color also reported being afraid of bullying many times or every day. A larger proportion of students of color reported feeling worried about friends and family being detained and deported, and being worried about being detained and deported themselves.

“Overwhelmingly, college students of color experience more fear of violence in general compared with white students,” said Erin Grinshteyn, assistant professor at the University of San Francisco and lead researcher on the study. “We know that fear is a risk factor for worse mental health, and it’s important for us to understand who is most at risk if we are to prevent mental health issues.”

Grinshteyn added, “Our next steps will be to collect nationally representative data, to give us a better picture of the problem nationwide. We also plan to test interventions that could help students better cope with their fear of victimization and possibly prevent mental health problems.” Co-authors for this abstract include Dellanira Valencia-Garcia, PhD and Marie-Claude Couture, PhD.

This research will be presented during the APHA Annual Meeting on Monday, Nov. 12, during session 3179: School health: Health equity now.


About the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo:

APHA’s 146th Annual Meeting is themed “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now.” The Annual Meeting is the largest annual gathering of public health professionals and features over a thousand presentations on the latest research and newest thinking in the public health field.

About APHA:

APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at