National Data on Life Expectancy and Mortality

Data on average life expectancy for African American and non-Hispanic whites:

Table 2-1


Mortality Crossover

There is a “mortality crossover” effect between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites in which the higher mortality of African Americans in younger ages decreases in old age. As evidenced by Table 2-1 above, whites have a 5.1 year advantage in life expectancy at birth, which by age 75 has decreased to 0.5 years. By 85 and after African American elders have slightly lower mortality rates than whites, and therefore slightly longer life expectancy. (Hummer, Benjamins, and Rogers, 2004). In the 1970s and 1980s the crossover occurred at earlier ages.

Although comparable federal data on life expectancy are not available for the other minority populations, there is evidence that, compared to non-Hispanic whites, by age 85 mortality in the other three populations is lower, so that elders would be expected to live longer on average that whites. (Hummer et al., 2004). Compared to Non-Hispanic whites:

  • Mortality is 13% lower for Hispanic Americans, (16% lower for Mexican American) in ages 65 to 85.
  • Among Native Americans at age 65, mortality is 19% higher, but the differences decline with age so that by age 85, their mortality rates are actually 3% lower than whites, another example of a mortality crossover.
  • Among Asian/Pacific Islanders mortality is considerably lower than white elders at age 65, (only 36% of whites rates), but the differences decrease so that by age 85, it is almost the same (97% of whites).