A method of analyzing mortality rates in heterogeneous populations is presented. This method, appropriate for the investigation of mortality rates in small geographic areas (e.g., counties) where the forces of mobility operate to selectively “package” persons, is applied to the determination of whether a spatial west-east gradient in cancer mortality rates existed in North Carolina over the period 1970 to 1975. A significant gradient (as well as a significant temporal trend) is determined to exist in the data, though only for particular race, age and sex-specific demographic groups. Several alternate hypotheses are presented to explain the existence of the spatial gradient in these particular demographic groups.

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