Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men

51 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016

See all articles by Marcella Alsan

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Marianne Wanamaker

University of Tennessee, Knoxville; IZA

Date Written: June 2016


For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males with syphilis despite the availability of effective treatment. The study’s methods have become synonymous with exploitation and mistreatment by the medical profession. To identify the study’s effects on the behavior and health of older black men, we use an interacted difference-in-difference-in-differences model, comparing older black men to other demographic groups, before and after the Tuskegee revelation, in varying proximity to the study’s victims. We find that the disclosure of the study in 1972 is correlated with increases in medical mistrust and mortality and decreases in both outpatient and inpatient physician interactions for older black men. Our estimates imply life expectancy at age 45 for black men fell by up to 1.5 years in response to the disclosure, accounting for approximately 35% of the 1980 life expectancy gap between black and white men and 25% of the gap between black men and women.

Suggested Citation

Alsan, Marcella and Wanamaker, Marianne, Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men (June 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22323, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2794769

Marcella Alsan (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marianne Wanamaker

University of Tennessee, Knoxville ( email )

The Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

IZA ( email )

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