State-Level Variations in Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy


Address correspondence to Nazleen Bharmal, M.D., M.P.P., Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, AHA/PRT-Spina Outcomes Center at UCLA, 710 Westwood Plaza, C109 RNRC, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1796, e-mail:



To explore state patterns in the racial life expectancy gap.

Data Sources

The 1997–2004 Multiple Cause of Death PUF, 2000 U.S. Census.

Study Design

We calculated life expectancy at birth for black and white men and women.

Data Extraction Methods

Data were obtained by the NCHS and U.S. Census Bureau.

Principal Findings

States with small racial differences are due to higher-than-expected life expectancy for blacks or lower-than-expected for whites. States with large disparity are explained by higher-than-average life expectancy among whites or lower-than-average life expectancy among blacks.


Heterogeneous state patterns in racial disparity in life expectancy exist. Eliminating disparity in states with large black populations would make the greatest impact nationally.