Adult Mortality and the Intersection of Race and Socioeconomic Status in the United States

Katherine Pearson, Pennsylvania State University

Research into the social causes of mortality disparities in the United States has shown that both race and socioeconomic status play key roles. Research has traditionally measured socioeconomic status in terms of education or income, but has overlooked the role that wealth may play in determining mortality. This paper utilizes newly matched mortality data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Older Men and Mature Women to investigate whether wealth mediates the relationship between race and mortality, and whether blacks are equally able to translate increases in SES into lower mortality. Findings show that race has a significant effect on mortality, and that controlling for measures of socioeconomic status reduces the magnitude of the effect of race for women and renders it insignificant for men. The effect of education is also shown to differ by race, indicating that blacks are not receiving the same returns to higher education that whites do.

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Presented in Poster Session 7