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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:
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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.

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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
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