Disparities in aspects such as income, education and marital status can tremendously contribute to the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the United States, states one of the first studies to put a number on how much of the divide can be attributed to discrepancies in socioeconomic characteristics.
A Princeton University study recently published in the journal Demography
reveals that socioeconomic differences can account for 80 percent of the life-expectancy divide between black and white men, and for 70 percent of the imbalance between black and white women.
Numerous existing studies on the topic have found that mortality differences are associated with certain socioeconomic disparities, but have not determined to what extent the life expectancy gap can be explained by such contrasts, noted author Michael Geruso, a doctoral student in Princeton's Department of Economics.
Geruso pulled mortality information from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study (NLMS), a nationally representative survey of households led by the U.S. Census Bureau that examines the demographic and socioeconomic factors related to death. He concluded from this data that the average life expectancy from age 1 — the NLMS does not fully capture neonatal and infant mortality — as 71 for white men and 66 for black men over the study period. White and black women lived an average of 78 and 74 years from age 1, respectively. These figures match statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.