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Where people went to school and how much money they make are far better indicators of whether they will die young than race or even where they live, researchers reported on Tuesday.
Their study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, reinforces the fact that black males are much more likely to die young than whites. But they believe they have found 22 separate explanations for why blacks live shorter lives, and why several counties in Mississippi have more premature deaths than most of the rest of the country.
“Once certain factors — such as the fraction of adults in the county who finish high school, the fraction with managerial or professional jobs and the fraction of adults who live in two-parent households — are accounted for, even geography, such as being in the South, is moot,” said Mark Cullen of Stanford University, who led the study.
“Geographic and racial disparities are best understood as related to disparities in education, occupations and the like, which are strongly associated with outcomes in every county we studied, whether it was large, small, urban, rural, Southern or not.”
The Stanford team used data covering the entire U.S. population from 1999 to 2001 for their study, which confirm come of the striking differences among Americans – for instance that 82 percent of white females born today could expect to live until 70, compared to just 54 percent of black males. White men live about seven years longer on average than African-American men, and white women live more than five years longer than black women.
But when broken down, factors such as education, income, job and marital status account for most of the differences. Other, less influential factors included smoking, obesity, having health insurance, eating fruits and vegetables, physical activity, and having had a cholesterol check.