Inequality in Mortality between Black and White Americans by Age, Place, and Cause, and in Comparison to Europe, 1990-2018

45 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2021 Last revised: 19 May 2022

See all articles by Hannes Schwandt

Hannes Schwandt

Northwestern University

Janet Currie

Princeton University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Marlies Bär

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management

James Banks

University of Manchester

Paola Bertoli

University of Verona

Aline Bütikofer

University of Bern

Sarah Cattan

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

Beatrice Zong-Ying Chao

Northwestern University

Claudia Costa

Universidade de Coimbra - Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning

Libertad Gonzalez

Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Veronica Grembi

University of Rome I - Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Earth Sciences and Forecasting Research Center, Prevention and Control of Geological Risks

Kristiina Huttunen

Uppsala University

René Karadakic

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Lucy Kraftman

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

Sonya Krutikova

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

Stefano Lombardi

Government of the Republic of Finland - VATT Institute for Economic Research

Peter Redler

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Carlos Riumallo Herl

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Ana Rodriguez-Gonzalez

Lund University

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Paula Santana

Universidade de Coimbra

Josselin Thuilliez

Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne

Eddy van Doorslaer

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Tom Van Ourti

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Joachim Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Bram Wouterse

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Amelie Wuppermann

Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg

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Abstract

Although there is a large gap between Black and White American life expectancies, the gap fell 48.9% between 1990-2018, mainly due to mortality declines among Black Americans. We examine age-specific mortality trends and racial gaps in life expectancy in rich and poor U.S. areas and with reference to six European countries.Inequalities in life expectancy are starker in the U.S. than in Europe. In 1990 White Americans and Europeans in rich areas had similar overall life expectancy, while life expectancy for White Americans in poor areas was lower. But since then even rich White Americans have lost ground relative to Europeans. Meanwhile, the gap in life expectancy between Black Americans and Europeans decreased by 8.3%.Black life expectancy increased more than White life expectancy in all U.S. areas, but improvements in poorer areas had the greatest impact on the racial life expectancy gap. The causes that contributed the most to Black mortality reductions included: Cancer, homicide, HIV, and causes originating in the fetal or infant period.Life expectancy for both Black and White Americans plateaued or slightly declined after 2012, but this stalling was most evident among Black Americans even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. If improvements had continued at the 1990-2012 rate, the racial gap in life expectancy would have closed by 2036. European life expectancy also stalled after 2014. Still, the comparison with Europe suggests that mortality rates of both Black and White Americans could fall much further across all ages and in both rich and poor areas.Significance StatementFrom 1990-2018, the Black-White life expectancy gap fell 48.9% though progress stalled after 2012 as life expectancy plateaued or declined. If improvements had continued at the 1990-2012 rate, the racial gap in life expectancy would have closed by 2036. Black life expectancy in 1990 started below European or White American levels but grew at a faster rate: the gap between Europeans and Black Americans decreased by 8.3% between 1990-2018. In 1990 White Americans and Europeans in rich areas had similar life expectancy, while White Americans in poor areas had lower life expectancy than poor Europeans. But all White Americans have lost ground relative to Europeans. Current incomebased life expectancy gaps are starker in the U.S. than in comparable European countries.

Keywords: life expectancy, racial disparity, area-level socioeconomic status, international comparison

JEL Classification: I14

Suggested Citation

Schwandt, Hannes and Currie, Janet and Bär, Marlies and Banks, James and Bertoli, Paola and Bütikofer, Aline and Cattan, Sarah and Chao, Beatrice Zong-Ying and Costa, Claudia and Gonzalez, Libertad and Grembi, Veronica and Huttunen, Kristiina and Karadakic, René and Kraftman, Lucy and Krutikova, Sonya and Lombardi, Stefano and Redler, Peter and Riumallo Herl, Carlos and Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Ana and Salvanes, Kjell G. and Santana, Paula and Thuilliez, Josselin and van Doorslaer, Eddy and Van Ourti, Tom and Winter, Joachim and Wouterse, Bram and Wuppermann, Amelie, Inequality in Mortality between Black and White Americans by Age, Place, and Cause, and in Comparison to Europe, 1990-2018. IZA Discussion Paper No. 14745, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3934762

Hannes Schwandt (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Janet Currie

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
6092587393 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~jcurrie

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Marlies Bär

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

James Banks

University of Manchester

Paola Bertoli

University of Verona

Via dell'Artigliere, 8
Verona, 37129
Italy

Aline Bütikofer

University of Bern ( email )

Gesellschaftsstrasse 49
Bern, BERN 3001
Switzerland

Sarah Cattan

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) ( email )

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Beatrice Zong-Ying Chao

Northwestern University

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Claudia Costa

Universidade de Coimbra - Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning ( email )

Avenida Dias da Silva, 165
Coimbra, 3001-454
Portugal

Libertad Gonzalez

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE)

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005
Spain

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Veronica Grembi

University of Rome I - Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Earth Sciences and Forecasting Research Center, Prevention and Control of Geological Risks ( email )

Rome
Italy

Kristiina Huttunen

Uppsala University ( email )

Box 513
Uppsala, 751 20
Sweden

René Karadakic

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.nhh.no/en/employees/faculty/rene-karadakic/

Lucy Kraftman

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) ( email )

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Sonya Krutikova

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) ( email )

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Stefano Lombardi

Government of the Republic of Finland - VATT Institute for Economic Research

Peter Redler

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

Carlos Riumallo Herl

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA
Netherlands

Ana Rodriguez-Gonzalez

Lund University

Box 117
Lund, SC S221 00
Sweden

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 5 595 9315 (Phone)
+47 5 595 9543 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Paula Santana

Universidade de Coimbra ( email )

Avenida Dias da Silva, 165
Coimbra, 3001-454
Portugal

Josselin Thuilliez

Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne ( email )

Eddy Van Doorslaer

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA
Netherlands

Tom Van Ourti

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA
Netherlands

Joachim Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

Bram Wouterse

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA
Netherlands

Amelie Wuppermann

Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg ( email )

Emil-Abderhalden-Str. 7
Halle an der Saale
06099 Halle (Saale), DE Sachsen-Anhalt 06099
Germany

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