The Puzzling Role of Context in Race Specific Odds of Death

Wesley L. James, University of Memphis
Jeralynn S. Cossman, Mississippi State University

This research investigates how income distribution affects odds of death beyond economic deprivation after controlling for individual demographics. Does contextual economic attainment and poverty have cross-level effects rooted in race? We analyze county-level influences of income, poverty, and income inequality on personal mortality risk using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). A unique analytic method is applied to the Compressed Mortality File in that mortality is treated as a dichotomous variable and contextual measures from the U.S. Bureau of the Census are used to indicate environmental factors. In fact, income inequality does have more deleterious effects on non-white mortality than it does on mortality of whites, controlling for age, race and gender. The contextual effects of income inequality completely diminish the race-based demographic effect on differential mortality risk. This finding needs to be further explored with data that can also control individual health behaviors.

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Presented in Poster Session 7