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The mortality consequences of distinctively black names

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  • Cook, Lisa D.
  • Logan, Trevon D.
  • Parman, John M.

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 3 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 1 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 was 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. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2016. "The mortality consequences of distinctively black names," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 114-125.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:59:y:2016:i:c:p:114-125
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2015.10.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Inwood, Kris & Minns, Chris & Summerfield, Fraser, 2018. "Occupational income scores and immigration assimilation. Evidence from the Canadian census," Economic History Working Papers 91317, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    2. Stepan Jurajda & Dejan Kovac, 2016. "What's in a Name in a War," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp573, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    3. Margo, Robert A., 2016. "Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(02), pages 301-341, June.
    4. Olivetti, Claudia & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2013. "In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930," CEPR Discussion Papers 9372, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2014. "Distinctively black names in the American past," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 64-82.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Race; Mortality; Names;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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