Life Expectancy for Black People Living in Former Slave Counties Is Considerably Lower Than the Life Expectancy for White People, Even after Taking a Whole Host of Factors into Account




Reece, Robert L.

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



Research on the long-term impacts of chattel slavery in the United States has yielded some important new understandings of the connections between the country’s past and present. This brief, from PRC faculty scholar Robert Reece, examines the connection between the number of enslaved people in counties in former slave states and life expectancy among Black and White people living in those same places today. He finds that relative to counties with fewer enslaved people in 1860, counties that had more enslaved people in 1860 have lower Black life expectancies and higher White life expectancies today, which exacerbates life expectancy inequality in those places, even after accounting for demographics, health access, local racial animus, occupational hazards, health behaviors, and neighborhood safety. He argues for the need to improve the quality of care Black Americans receive by investing in healthcare facilities that have providers—particularly Black providers—trained in the importance of reducing racial health disparities.

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