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Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men

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  • Marcella Alsan
  • Marianne Wanamaker

Abstract

For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males 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, 2016. "Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men," NBER Working Papers 22323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22323
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Sam Watson’s journal round-up for 12th February 2018
      by Sam Watson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2018-02-12 12:00:21

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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).

    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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