The gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans has narrowed by nearly 50% in three decades, largely due to improvements among black Americans, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Co-authored by researchers at Princeton University’s Center for Health and Wellbeing, the study analysed data from 1990 to 2018 to compare mortality rates between black and white Americans, through the lens of place, reports Medical Xpress. They also compared the United States with Europe to provide a benchmark comparison. The study found that in 1990, black Americans lived seven years fewer than whites. But by 2018, that number had dropped to 3.6 years. Life-expectancy improvements in the poorest counties particularly helped narrow the gap. Reductions in black deaths caused by cancer, HIV, homicide, and fetal and neonatal conditions were especially important in closing the gaps.
Yet, life expectancy has stalled for all groups in the United States since 2012, and white Americans have lost ground relative to Europeans in both rich and poor areas. During the past three decades, white Americans have increasingly fallen behind Europeans. Within Europe, even relatively poor countries such as Portugal, were able to catch up with richer countries by 2018 in terms of life expectancy, while the U.S. lagged. At the same time, life expectancy for black Americans started far below European and white American rates in 1990, but grew at a faster rate than European life expectancy.