Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

RACE/ETHNICITY AND U.S. ADULT MORTALITY: Progress, Prospects, and New Analyses1

  • Robert A. Hummer (a1) and Juanita J. Chinn (a1)

Although there have been significant decreases in U.S. mortality rates, racial/ethnic disparities persist. The goals of this study are to: (1) elucidate a conceptual framework for the study of racial/ethnic differences in U.S. adult mortality, (2) estimate current racial/ethnic differences in adult mortality, (3) examine empirically the extent to which measures of socioeconomic status and other risk factors impact the mortality differences across groups, and (4) utilize findings to inform the policy community with regard to eliminating racial/ethnic disparities in mortality. Relative Black-White differences are modestly narrower when compared to a decade or so ago, but remain very wide. The majority of the Black-White adult mortality gap can be accounted for by measures of socioeconomic resources that reflect the historical and continuing significance of racial socioeconomic stratification. Further, when controlling for socioeconomic resources, Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants exhibit significantly lower mortality risk than non-Hispanic Whites. Without aggressive efforts to create equality in socioeconomic and social resources, Black-White disparities in mortality will remain wide, and mortality among the Mexican-origin population will remain higher than what would be the case if that population achieved socioeconomic equality with Whites.

Corresponding author
Robert A. Hummer, Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, G1800, Austin, Texas 78752. E-mail:
Hide All

This research was supported by infrastructure grants 5 T32 HD007081, Training Program in Population Studies, and 5 R24 HD042849, Population Research Center, both awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We also gratefully acknowledge support provided by a research grant from the National Institute for Minority and Health Disparities, 1 R01MD00425, principal investigator, Brian K. Finch.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Acevedo-Garcia , J. Pan , H. Jun , T. L. Osypuk , and K. M. Emmons (2005). The Effect of Immigrant Generation on Smoking. Social Science and Medicine, 61: 12231242.

P. Allison (1984). Event History Analysis: Regression for Longitudinal Event Data. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

E. Arias , K. Eschbach , W. S. Schauman , E. L. Backlund , and P. D. Sorlie (2010). The Hispanic Mortality Advantage and Ethnic Misclassification on U.S. Death Certificates. American Journal of Public Health, 100(S1): S171S177.

L. N. Borrell and N. D. Crawford (2009). All-Cause Mortality among Hispanics in the United States: Exploring Heterogeneity by Nativity Status, Country of Origin, and Race in the National Health Interview Survey-Linked Mortality Files. Annals of Epidemiology, 19: 336343.

L. M. Burton and M. B. Tucker (2009). Romantic Unions in an Era of Uncertainty: A Post-Moynihan Perspective on African American Women and Marriage. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Research, 621: 132149.

R. Cooper (1984). A Note on the Biological Concept of Race and Its Application in Epidemiological Research. American Heart Journal, 108: 715723.

C. G. Ellison , R. A. Hummer , S. Cormier , and R. G. Rogers (2000). Religious Involvement and Mortality Risk among African American Adults. Research on Aging, 22: 630667.

I. T. Elo and G. L. Drevenstedt (2004). Cause-specific Contributions to Black-White Differences in Male Mortality from 1960 to 1995. Demographic Research, Special Collection 2, Article 10: 255276.

C. Feliciano (2005). Educational Selectivity in U.S. Immigration: How Do Immigrants Compare to Those Left Behind? Demography, 42: 131152.

R. Frank , I. R. Akresh , and B. Lu (2010). Latino Immigrants and the U.S. Racial Order: How and Where Do They Fit In? American Sociological Review, 75: 378401.

P. Franks , P. Muennig , E. Lubetkin , and H. Jia (2006). The Burden of Disease Associated with Being African-American in the United States and the Contribution of Socio-economic Status. Social Science and Medicine, 62: 24692478.

S. Harper , J. Lynch , S. Burris , G. D. Smith (2007). Trends in the Black-White Life Expectancy Gap in the United States, 1983–2003. Journal of the American Medical Association, 297: 12241232.

R. A. Hummer (1996). Black-White Differences in Health and Mortality: A Review and Conceptual Model. The Sociological Quarterly, 37(1): 105125.

R. A. Hummer and E. R. Hamilton (2010). Race and Ethnicity and Fragile Families. Future of Children, 20(2): 113132.

J. S. Jackson , D. Hudson , K. Kershaw , B. Mezuk , J. Rafferty , and K. K. Tuttle (2011). Discrimination, Chronic Stress, and Mortality among Black Americans: A Life-Course Framework. In R. G. Rogers and E. M. Crimmins (Eds.), International Handbook of Adult Mortality, Chapter 15. New York: Springer Publishers (forthcoming).

R. S. Levine , J. E. Foster , R. E. Fullilove , M. T. Fullilove , N. C. Briggs , P. C. Hull , B. A. Husaini , and C. H. Hennekens (2001). Black-White Inequalities in Mortality and Life Expectancy, 1933–1999: Implications for Healthy People 2010. Public Health Reports, 116: 474483.

L. Lopez-Gonzalez , V. Aravena , and R. A. Hummer (2005). Immigrant Acculturation, Gender, and Health Behavior: A Research Note. Social Forces, 84: 581593.

J. Macinko and I. T. Elo (2009). Black-White Differences in Avoidable Mortality in the USA, 1980–2005. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 63: 715721.

K. S. Markides and K. Eschbach (2011). Hispanic Paradox in Adult Mortality in the United States. In R. G. Rogers and E. M. Crimmins (Eds.) International Handbook of Adult Mortality, Chapter 14. New York: Springer Publishers (forthcoming).

S. S. McLanahan (2009). Fragile Families and the Reproduction of Poverty. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621: 111131.

A. Palloni and E. Arias (2004). Paradox Lost: Explaining the Hispanic Adult Mortality Advantage. Demography, 41(3): 385415.

R. G. Rogers (1992). Living and Dying in the USA: Sociodemographic Determinants of Death among Blacks and Whites. Demography, 29: 287303.

R. G. Rogers , R. A. Hummer , P. Krueger , and F. Pampel (2005). Mortality Attributable to Cigarette Smoking in the United States. Population and Development Review, 31(2): 259292.

R. G. Rogers , R. A. Hummer , C. B. Nam , and K. Peters (1996). Demographic, Socioeconomic, and Behavioral Factors Affecting Ethnic Mortality by Cause. Social Forces, 74: 14191438.

R. Saenz and M. C. Morales (2005). Demography of Race and Ethnicity. In D. L. Poston and M. Micklin (Eds.) Handbook of Population, pp. 169206. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

D. Satcher , G. E. Fryer Jr., J. McCann , A. Troutman , S. H. Woolf , and G. Rust (2005). What If We Were Equal? A Comparison of the Black-White Mortality Gap in 1960 and 2000. Health Affairs, 24(2): 459464.

F. A. Sloan , P. Ayyagari , M. Salm , and D. Grossman (2010). The Longevity Gap Between Black and White Men in the United States at the Beginning and End of the 20th Century. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2): 357363.

Q. T. Stewart (2008). The Shape of Inequality: Racial Disparities in Age-Specific Mortality. Biodemography and Social Biology, 54: 152182.

S. J. Trejo (2003). Intergenerational Progress of Mexican-Origin Workers in the U.S. Labor Market. Journal of Human Resources, 38: 467489.

C. M. Turra and I. T. Elo (2008). The Impact of Salmon Bias on the Hispanic Mortality Advantage: New Evidence from Social Security Data. Population Research and Policy Review, 27(5): 515530.

D. R. Williams and P. B. Jackson (2005). Social Sources of Racial Disparities in Health. Health Affairs, 24(2): 325334.

D. R. Williams , S. A. Mohammed , J. Leavell , and C. Collins (2010). Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Health: Complexities, Ongoing Challenges, and Research Opportunities. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1186: 69101.

D. R. Williams and M. Sternthal (2010). Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(S): S15S27.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *