Volume 29 - Article 17 | Pages 441–472  

An examination of black/white differences in the rate of age-related mortality increase

By Andrew Fenelon


Background: The rate of mortality increase with age among adults is typically used as a measure of the rate of functional decline associated with aging or senescence. While black and white populations differ in the level of mortality, mortality also rises less rapidly with age for blacks than for whites, leading to the well-known black/white mortality "crossover".

Objective: This paper investigates black/white differences in the rate of mortality increase with age for major causes of death in order to examine the factors responsible for the black/white crossover.

Methods: The analysis considers two explanations for the crossover: selective survival and age misreporting. Mortality is modeled using a Gompertz model for 11 causes of death from ages 50-84 among blacks and whites by sex.

Results: Mortality increases more rapidly with age for whites than for blacks for nearly all causes of death considered. The all-cause mortality rate of mortality increase is nearly two percentage points higher for whites. The analysis finds evidence for both selective survival and age misreporting, although age misreporting is a more prominent explanation among women.

Conclusions: The black/white mortality crossover reflects large differences in the rate of age-related mortality increase. Instead of reflecting the impact of specific causes of death, this pattern exists across many disparate disease conditions, indicating the need for a broad explanation.

Author's Affiliation

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