A new study found staggering differences in the toll of death among Black and White Americans over a 22-year period. According to the researchers, while all racial groups saw decreases in death rates over that time, rates for Black people remained unchanged.
Now a new study, published Tuesday in JAMA, casts the nation’s racial inequities in stark relief, finding that the higher mortality rate among Black Americans resulted in 1.63 million excess deaths relative to white Americans over more than two decades.
Because so many Black people die young — with many years of life ahead of them — their higher mortality rate from 1999 to 2020 resulted in a cumulative loss of more than 80 million years of life compared with the white population, the study showed.
Although the nation made progress in closing the gap between white and Black mortality rates from 1999 to 2011, that advance stalled from 2011 to 2019. In 2020, the enormous number of deaths from covid-19 — which hit Black Americans particularly hard — erased two decades of progress.
Authors of the study describe it as a call to action to improve the health of Black Americans, whose early deaths are fueled by higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and infant mortality.
“The study is hugely important for about 1.63 million reasons,” said Herman Taylor, an author of the study and director of the cardiovascular research institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.
“Real lives are being lost. Real families are missing parents and grandparents,” Taylor said. “Babies and their mothers are dying. We have been screaming this message for decades.”
High mortality rates among Black people have less to do with genetics than with the country’s long history of discrimination, which has undermined educational, housing, and job opportunities for generations of Black people, said Clyde Yancy, an author of the study and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.