One Hundred Years of US Racial Inequalities in Mortality: A Decomposition of the Distribution of Deaths by Age Group, 1900-1999

Margaret M. Weden, University of Wisconsin at Madison

This paper develops an interdisciplinary framework for studying historical trends in social inequalities in health for western European industrialized countries and the US. I argue that inequalities in longevity within and between subpopulations, defined by social group status, will vary with epidemiological changes in the total population mortality regime. These inequalities in longevity are hypothesized to correspond with changes in the degree of within group variance at the population level from the beginning of one mortality regime through a transition to a second. I hypothesize that changes in mortality in specific age groups (associated with mortality regime changes) determine the changes in subpopulation and total population heterogeneity in the age of death. This theoretical model is empirically tested by decomposing the changes in the distribution of deaths by age in ten year periods from 1900 through to 2000 for US white and non-white men.

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Presented in Session 20: Death: Trends, Distributions, Inequality