To assess the impact of demographic and clinical factors on prognosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), we examined survivorship by life-table analysis in 389 patients. There were approximately equal numbers of Caucasian patients and American black patients in this study group. On both univariate and multivariate analyses, we found that both American black race and increasing age at SLE onset independently worsened the probability of survival. Of all the clinical factors we analyzed, thrombocytopenia emerged as the only independent risk factor for a worse prognosis in SLE. In all clinical and demographic groups considered, the leading cause of death was infection.