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The Mortality Consequences of Distinctively Black Names

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  • Lisa Cook
  • Trevon Logan
  • John Parman

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 three 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 one 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 were 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

  • Lisa Cook & Trevon Logan & John Parman, 2015. "The Mortality Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," NBER Working Papers 21625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21625
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Štěpán Jurajda & Dejan Kovač, 2021. "Names and behavior in a war," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(1), pages 1-33, January.
    3. Inwood, Kris & Minns, Chris & Summerfield, Fraser, 2019. "Occupational income scores and immigrant assimilation. Evidence from the Canadian census," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 114-122.
    4. Abhay Aneja & Guo Xu, 2020. "The Costs of Employment Segregation: Evidence from the Federal Government under Wilson," NBER Working Papers 27798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Margo, Robert A., 2016. "Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 301-341, June.
    8. Xu, Dafeng, 2019. "Surname-based ethnicity and ethnic segregation in the early twentieth century U.S," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 1-19.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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