Black Men In America Are Living Almost As Long As White Men


With the constant complaints about the perils of being black in America, the following data will come as a surprise to some:

The chasm in life-expectancy that once existed [between blacks and whites] has nearly closed.

“Criminologists still do not know why violent crime and homicides began to decline [for blacks]in the mid-1990s. A wide array of theories have been proposed.” A strong contender: “mass incarceration actually working as intended.”

In fact, “the emergence of the opioid epidemic, which kills whites at higher rates than other races, has also hastened the racial convergence.”

BACK IN 1980 when Harlem was still a byword for poverty, criminality and the decline of New York City, black men in the neighbourhood had a worse chance of living to the age of 65 than men in Bangladesh did. At that time Harlem’s residents—almost all of them black, and many of them poor—died of heart disease at double the rate of whites. They died of liver cirrhosis, brought on by alcoholism or hepatitis, at ten times the rate of whites. And they were 14 times likelier to be murdered.


… the persistent gap in life expectancy between whites and blacks has closed substantially, and is now at its narrowest ever. In 1900, … the life expectancy for black boys at birth was 32.5—14.1 years shorter than for white boys. Put another way, the typical black boy had 30% less life to live. Incremental progress, however fitful, was made for the next century, but epidemics of crack, HIV and urban violence threatened to reverse [progress]. By 1993, a peak year for violent crime, the life-expectancy gap between black and white men had widened again by nearly three years, to 8.5 years.

… But then it began a sustained, steady fall. In 2011 the black-white gap had narrowed to 4.4 years for men (5.7% less) and just 3.1 years (3.8% less) for women. Though progress then levelled off until 2016, the most recent year available from the CDC, the trend is stable and not reversing.

… A wide array of theories have been proposed: the eroding appeal of crack cocaine, mass incarceration actually working as intended, legalisation of abortion, less lead poisoning of children and the improving economy. But the public-health consequences are abundantly clear, particularly for black men who were and remain the most frequent victims of murder. …


MORE: “Black Lives Longer.”