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Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men

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  • Marcella Alsan
  • Marianne Wanamaker

Abstract

For 40 years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black men 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

  • Marcella Alsan & Marianne Wanamaker, 2018. "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(1), pages 407-455.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:133:y:2018:i:1:p:407-455.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjx029
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    Cited by:

    1. Balat, Jorge & Papageorge, Nicholas W. & Qayyum, Shaiza, 2017. "Positively Aware? Conflicting Expert Reviews and Demand for Medical Treatment," IZA Discussion Papers 10919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Monica Martinez-Bravo & Andreas Stegmann, 2017. "In Vaccines We Trust? The Effects of the CIA's Vaccine Ruse on Immunization in Pakistan," Working Papers wp2017_1713, CEMFI, revised Jul 2018.
    3. Monica Martinez-Bravo & Andreas Stegmann, 2017. "In Vaccines We Trust? The Effects of the CIA's Vaccine Ruse on Immunization in Pakistan," Working Papers wp2017_1713, CEMFI, revised Jul 2018.
    4. Barton H. Hamilton & Andrés Hincapié & Robert A. Miller & Nicholas W. Papageorge, 2018. "Innovation and Diffusion of Medical Treatment," NBER Working Papers 24577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ricardo Maertens & Alessandro Tarozzi & Kazi Matin Ahmed & Alexander van Geen, 2018. "Demand for Information on Environmental Health Risk, Mode of Delivery, and Behavioral Change: Evidence from Sonargaon, Bangladesh," Working Papers id:12934, eSocialSciences.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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