The Black-White Life Expectancy Gap

While the national life expectancy gap is narrowing, whites still live longer than Blacks in every state in the U.S.

Posted: 03/02/2012 03:16 PM EST
Health News, disparities, racial health disparities

It's been well documented that there is a serious life expectancy gap between African-Americans and whites. And a new report conducted at UCLA not only confirms this fact, but zeroes in on how these disparities impact each state. By analyzing death-certificate data from the years 1997 through 2004, researchers found that, on average, white men outlive Black men by seven years, and white women live five years longer than Black women.


The state with the smallest disparity is New Mexico with 3.76 years for men and 2.45 years for women. The area with the largest and most shocking disparity was the District of Columbia, with 13.77 years for men and 8.55 years for women.


States with the largest disparities for men were New Jersey, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois. In these states, the gap was greater than eight years. For women, the states with the largest life expectancy gaps were Illinois, Rhode Island, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Florida and Nebraska. In these states, the difference was six years.


What's behind these discouraging numbers?


Experts cite a range of factors that play a role in why we live shorter lives, which include disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS, homicide, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. There is also the lack of access to quality health care and the lack of emphasis on preventative health care.


But according to researchers, just because whites outlive Blacks doesn't mean that their health is improving either. In states with the smallest disparities, Blacks were not getting better, whites were just dying younger than the national average and also were suffering from poor health.


Yet they are clear that African-Americans need special attention.


One approach to lowering the national life expectancy gap is by focusing on the states that have the most African-Americans. Forty-eight percent of all Blacks in the U.S. live in the following 10 states: New York, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, Missouri and Louisiana. By eliminating the disparity in Florida alone would reduce the national disparity from 7.13 years to 6.63 years for men and from 5.20 years to 4.74 years for women.



BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. andaround the world.

(Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images)

From Our Partners