Five Charts That Explain Why Black Americans Are Still Dying Younger Than White Americans


The gap between black Americans’ and white Americans’ life expectancy is the lowest that it’s ever been, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But blacks are still dying, on average, 3.8 years before whites — largely due to higher rates of heart disease, cancer, homicide, diabetes, and perinatal conditions among black Americans. Why are there still pervasive racial and socioeconomic disparities when it comes to Americans’ life expectancy? The following five charts provide some clues:

1. Gun violence disproportionately impacts black communities.

Although blacks are far less likely than whites to commit suicide with a gun, they are far more likely to be shot dead with one, according to CDC data compiled between 1999 and 2010.

2. Black Americans living in low-income communities are often unable to buy healthy food.

According to a PolicyLink review of various studies on “food deserts,” Americans who don’t have a supermarket within a mile of their home are 25 to 46 percent less likely to to have a healthy diet and far more likely to depend on mini-marts that sell processed, packaged food with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat — i.e., the types of ingredients that, when consumed on large levels, dramatically increase the risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Putting more grocery stores in food deserts could greatly mitigate those conditions, since studies have also shown that African-Americans are more likely to make good use of them:

3. Too few hospitals provide primary and preventative care to minorities.

A broad examination of racial disparities in health care access conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that low income communities tend to have less access to hospitals and primary care facilities that could help them manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. That’s highlighted by the fact that 48 percent of all primary care physicians care for 82 percent of all minority patients:

4. The hospitals that do serve minorities tend to have less experienced staff.

The 48 percent of doctors caring for minority patients tend to have less experience and are less likely to be board-certified:

5. Blacks are almost 50 percent more likely not to receive high-quality primary care.

Because health care facilities that serve mostly African-Americans have less resources and lower access to specialty care providers than those that serve whites, primary care doctors who care for black people are far more likely to say the care they are providing is inadequate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation: