Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Adult Survival: Decomposition of Age at Death Variance among U.S. Adults

Joseph T. Lariscy, University of Texas at Austin
Claudia L. Nau, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Glenn Firebaugh, Pennsylvania State University
Robert A. Hummer, University of Texas at Austin

Racial/ethnic inequalities in life expectancy (the mean age at death) are well-established. However, considering only differences in longevity misses an important component of inequality: variability in length of life. We use 2009 U.S. National Vital Statistics System data to examine the magnitude of racial/ethnic differences in lifespan variability. We decompose variance in the age at death distribution of Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks relative to non-Hispanic whites using the variance-decomposition technique developed by Nau and Firebaugh (2012). This approach decomposes racial/ethnic differences in lifespan variability into the contribution of each cause and determines the contributions of racial/ethnic differences in cause-specific within-variability of age at death (spread effect), number of deaths attributable to each cause (allocation effect), and cause-specific mean age (timing effect). The lower variability among Hispanics relative to whites is largely attributable to allocation effects whereas the greater variability among blacks relative to whites is mainly due to spread effects.

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Presented in Session 39: Mortality of Mexican Populations in the U.S. and in Mexico: Evidence and Methods