Life Span Improves for Black Americans

The gap between white and black Americans is down to four years.

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The National Center for Health Statistics says that although there remains a difference of four years between the life spans of white Americans and black Americans, overall, life expectancy for black Americans is improving, according to the New York Times.

With a 17 percent increase in life expectancy at birth and an 11-year increase in overall life span since 1970, black Americans are living longer than they ever have. Demographers say much of this can be attributed to declining AIDS and homicide rates.

Life expectancy for blacks rose to 75 years in 2010, up from 64 years in 1970. For whites, it rose to 79 years from 72 years in the same period. In 1930, life expectancy stood at 48 for blacks and at 60 for whites.

Higher infant mortality among blacks also contributes to the gap, but less than it used to. The infant mortality rate for blacks fell by 16 percent from 2005 to 2011, compared with a 12 percent drop for whites, said Kenneth M. Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.

Heart disease was the single biggest drag on black life expectancy, accounting for a full year of the 3.8-year difference between whites and blacks. The second-biggest factor was cancer, accounting for about eight months of the difference.

Read more at the New York Times.

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