NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Homicide Lowers Life Expectancy of Blacks

September 17, 2001

Homicide is one of the major contributors to the difference in overall life expectancy between blacks and whites in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the September 14th issue of the agency's "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report," the CDC reports that life expectancy for blacks in 1998 was approximately six years shorter than that of whites.

  • Homicide was the third-largest contributor to that difference.
  • Homicide followed heart disease and cancer in explaining the difference in overall life expectancy between blacks and whites and stroke was also an important factor.
  • The researchers also found that the contribution of homicide to the decreased life expectancy was much greater among black males than among black females.

According to the CDC, factors that increase the risk of violence -- which could result in homicide -- include living at or below the poverty level, living in single-parent households, poor school performance and exposure to neighborhood violence.

‘We were surprised by the findings because when you look at the death rate for blacks, (homicide) only accounts for about 3 percent of deaths in any given year, but contributes a great deal to the difference in life expectancy between blacks and whites,' the CDC's La Mar Hasbrouck told Reuters Health.

SOURCE: L. Potter, "Influence of Homicide on Racial Disparity in Life Expectancy --- United States, 1998," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, September 14, 2001; Homicide Lowers Live Expectancy of Blacks: CDC, Reuters Health, September 13, 2001.

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