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Unformatted text preview: Early-Life Origins of the Race Gap in Men’s Mortality* DAVID F. WARNER The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill MARK D. HAYWARD University of Texas at Austin Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2006, Vol 47 (September): 209–226 Using a life course framework, we examine the early life origins of the race gap in men’s all-cause mortality. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men (1966–1990), we evaluate major social pathways by which early life con- ditions differentiate the mortality experiences of blacks and whites. Our findings indicate that early life socioeconomic conditions, particularly parental occupa- tion and family structure, explain part of the race gap in mortality. Black men’s higher rates of death are associated with lower socioeconomic standing in early life and living in homes lacking both biological parents. However, these effects operate indirectly through adult socioeconomic achievement processes, as edu- cation, family income, wealth, and occupational complexity statistically account for the race gap in men’s mortality. Our findings suggest that policy interventions to eliminate race disparities in mortality and health should address both childhood and adult socioeconomic conditions. 209 The race gap in men’s mortality is a nation- al tragedy. 1 In 2002, black males at birth had a life expectancy of 68.8 years, compared to 75.1 years for white males (Kochanek et al. 2004). The gap narrows with age, yet at age 45 white men in 2002 could expect to live almost 4.5 years longer than could black men (32.9 years vs. 28.5 years). Much of the mortality gap reflects differ- ences in chronic conditions. Middle-aged black men, for example, have higher preva- lence and incidence rates of hypertension, dia- betes, and stroke (Hayward et al. 2000; Smith and Kington 1997). Blacks are more likely to have multiple fatal conditions and more func- tional limitations than are whites (Hayward et al. 2000; Hayward and Heron 1999; Smith and Kington 1997). As a result, black men live fewer years and live more years with a chronic condition (Crimmins and Saito 2001; Hay- ward, Friedman, and Chen 1996; Hayward and Heron 1999). These disparities underscore the differential ability of blacks and whites to invest in careers and family relationships and to enjoy returns on these investments. Here, we use a life course framework (Elder 1999) to investigate how early life conditions combine with conditions in adulthood to give rise to the race gap in mortality (Elo and Preston 1992; Kuh and Ben-Shlomo 1997; Preston, Hill, and Drevenstedt 1998). This approach is appealing given the predominance of fatal conditions that begin to emerge in midlife, after years of subclinical development (Hertzman, Frank, and Evans 1994). Although * This research was partially supported by grants R01AG11758 and R55AG09311 from the National Institute on Aging and by grants 1R24HD041025 and 5P30HD28263 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. AdditionalChild Health and Human Development....
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- White people, Life expectancy