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Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy: How Much Can the Standard SES Variables Account for?

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  • Michael Geruso

    (Princeton University)

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    Abstract

    This paper quantities the power of socioeconomic and demographic characteristics to account for black-white disparities in life expectancy in the US. While many studies have investigated the linkages between race, SES, and mortality, previous studies have almost universally reported results in terms of coefficients and odds ratios from hazard models. This paper attempts to illuminate how racial differences in mortality hazards aggregate into a net effect on the life course by reporting effects on life expectancies. The focus on life expectancy is facilitated by a reweighting technique, well-established in labor economics but novel in this context, that creates counterfactual estimates of black life expectancy in which income, education, employment and occupation, and other theoretically relevant characteristics among blacks are made to match the characteristics of whites. Among males, 80% of the black-white gap in life expectancy at age one can be accounted for by differences in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Among females, 70% percent of the gap is accounted for. Labor force participation, occupation, and, among women only, marital status have almost no power to explain the black-white disparity in life expectancy once precise measures for income and education are controlled for.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1229.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:racial_disparities_chw_geruso_april2010

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    Keywords: life expectancy; blacks; whites; marital status; mortality;

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    1. Noreen Goldman, 1993. "Marriage selection and mortality patterns: Inferences and fallacies," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 189-208, May.
    2. Dinardo, J. & Fortin, N.M. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Cahiers de recherche 9406, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en ├ęconomie quantitative, CIREQ.
    3. Brian Finch, 2003. "Early origins of the gradient: the relationship between socioeconomic status and infant mortality in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(4), pages 675-699, November.
    4. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    5. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    6. Farrell, Phillip & Fuchs, Victor R. & Fuchs, Victor R., 1982. "Schooling and health : The cigarette connection," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 217-230, December.
    7. John Murray, 2000. "Marital protection and marital selection: Evidence from a historical-prospective sample of American men," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 511-521, November.
    8. Ecob, Russell & Davey Smith, George, 1999. "Income and health: what is the nature of the relationship?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(5), pages 693-705, March.
    9. Lee Lillard & Constantijn Panis, 1996. "Marital status and mortality: The role of health," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 313-327, August.
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