Abstract

This paper examines the demographic and social factors associated with differences in length of life by race. The results demonstrate that sociodemographic factors—age, sex, marital status, family size, and income—profoundly affect black and white mortality. Indeed, the racial gap in overall mortality could close completely with increased standards of living and improved lifestyles. Moreover, examining cause-specific mortality while adjusting for social factors shows that compared to whites, blacks have a lower mortality risk from respiratory diseases, accidents. and suicide; the same risk from circulatory diseases and cancer; and higher risks from infectious diseases, homicide, and diabetes. These results underscore the importance of examining social characteristics to understand more clearly the race differences in overall and cause-specific mortality.

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