Cause-of-Death Contributions to Black-White Differences in Life Expectancy 1980-2005: The Role of “Avoidable” Mortality

Irma T. Elo, University of Pennsylvania
James Macinko, New York University
Hiram Beltran-Sanchez, University of Southern California

Despite unprecedented declines in mortality during the 20th century, black-white mortality disparities continue to be substantial in the United States. In this paper, we analyze the contribution of “avoidable mortality,” causes of death that should not occur in the presence of high-quality and timely medical treatment and causes that are influenced by behavior (e.g., smoking) and in part by public policy, to black-white differences in life expectancy. We also examine the contribution of causes classified as “non-avoidable” and their contribution to trends in white and black life expectancy between 1980 and 2005. These “non-avoidable” causes have made a substantial contribution to mortality declines in the U.S. and to reducing the black-white mortality gap. A disaggregation of the “non-avoidable” cause-of-death group will shed further light on factors that have played a role in US mortality trends in the latter half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.

Presented in Session 88: Cause-of-Death Analyses