The Mortality Consequences of Distinctively Black Names

29 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2015 Last revised: 2 Feb 2023

See all articles by Lisa D. Cook

Lisa D. Cook

Michigan State University - Department of Economics and James Madison College; NBER

Trevon Logan

Ohio State University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John Parman

College of William and Mary - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 2015

Abstract

Race-specific given names have been linked to a range of negative outcomes in contemporary studies, but little is known about their long term consequences. Building on recent research which documents the existence of a national naming pattern for African American males in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Cook, Logan and Parman 2014), we analyze long-term consequences of distinctively racialized names. Using over three million death certificates from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina from 1802 to 1970, we find a robust within-race mortality difference for African American men who had distinctively black names. Having an African American name added more than one year of life relative to other African American males. The result is robust to controlling for the age pattern of mortality over time and environmental factors which could drive the mortality relationship. The result is not consistently present for infant and child mortality, however. As much as 10% of the historical between-race mortality gap would have been closed if every black man were given a black name. Suggestive evidence implies that cultural factors not captured by socioeconomic or human capital measures may be related to the mortality differential.

Suggested Citation

Cook, Lisa D. and Logan, Trevon and Parman, John, The Mortality Consequences of Distinctively Black Names (October 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21625, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2672739

Lisa D. Cook (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Department of Economics and James Madison College ( email )

South Case Hall
East Lansing, MI 48825-1205
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Trevon Logan

Ohio State University ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John Parman

College of William and Mary - Department of Economics ( email )

Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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