Racial inequities in life expectancy are the lowest in history

Racial inequities in life expectancy decreased between 2003 - 2008, and are at the lowest level in history, with whites outliving blacks by only three to five years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, researchers looked at data on deaths and population from the US National Vital Statistics System by age and cause of death for non-Hispanic blacks and whites in 2003 and 2008.

Key findings:


  • Between 2003 and 2008, life expectancy at birth increased from 75.3 to 76.2 years among non-Hispanic white men and from 68.8 to 70.8 years among non-Hispanic black men, whereas for women the changes were from 80.3 to 81.2 years (non-Hispanic whites) and 75.7 to 77.5 years (non-Hispanic blacks). This reduced the racial gap for life expectancy s from 6.5 to 5.4 years among men and from 4.6 to 3.7 years among women.
  • For men, heart disease (22%) and homicide (19%) were the leading contributors to the gap in 2008.
  • Whites had large increases in poisoning mortality, which was the primary reason that unintentional injuries reduced the racial gap.


(Sources: The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, June 13, 2012; Journal of the American Medical Association, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/, June 6, 2012)