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Wealth, Race, and Mortality


  • *Direct correspondence to Stephanie A. Bond Huie, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, G1800, Austin, TX 78712 〈〉. We thank the National Science Foundation (Grants SES-9906080 and SES-9906145) for financial support and Starling Pullum and Dennis Donahue for programming assistance. The data are public use and are available from the Health and Retirement Survey website 〈;〉.


Objective. We explore, first, whether wealth relates to mortality risk independent of income and education, and second, whether wealth closes the black-white gap in U.S. adult mortality while controlling for other socioeconomic and sociodemographic factors.

Methods. We employ the Cox proportional hazards models on data from the 1992 wave of the Health and Retirement Study linked to deaths through 1998, to analyze pre-retirement adult mortality in the United States.

Results. The findings suggest that broader measures of SES, including wealth, are significant for understanding adult mortality. Further, vastly lower asset holdings among blacks, compared to whites, not only affects their financial well-being but also their survival prospects.

Conclusions. Research and social policies that aim to understand and close health disparities in the United States may be poorly conceived if they ignore the impact of wealth on premature adult mortality.