- The Oxford Handbook of Economics and Human Biology
- About the Editors
- Growth Faltering in the First Thousand Days after Conception and Catch-up Growth
- Biological Measures of Well-Being
- Crisis and Human Biology
- The Biological Standard of Living in Europe from the Late Iron Age to the Little Ice Age
- Econometrics of Economics and Human Biology
- Body Mass Index Through Time: Explanations, Evidence, and Future Directions
- Health, Body Weight, and Obesity
- Inequality and Heights
- Adult Weight and Height of Native Populations
- Slave Heights
- Female Heights and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence
- The Impact of Socioeconomic Inequality on Children’s Health and Well-Being
- Growth and Maturation of Children and Adolescents: Variability Due to Genetic and Environmental Factors
- Global Perspectives on Economics and Biology
- Global BMI Trends
- Poverty and Obesity in Developed Countries
- Biomarkers as Inputs
- How Genetics Can Inform Health Economics
- Twins Studies in Economics
- Public and Private Returns to Investing in Nutrition
- The Double Burden of Malnutrition
- Biological Health Risks and Economic Development
- Obesity and Income Inequality in OECD Countries
- Height and Wages
- Why Do People with Higher Body Weight Earn Lower Wages?
- Wealth and Weight
- Family Economics and Obesity
- Obesity and Welfare Regimes
- Children’s Anthropometrics and Later Disease Incidence
- Birth Weight as an Indicator of Human Welfare
- A Pound of Flesh: The Use of Birthweight as a Measure of Human Capital Endowment in Economics Research
- Neuroeconomics: A Flourishing Field
- The African Enigma: The Mystery of Tall African Adults Despite Low National Incomes Revisited
- East Asia on the Rise: The Anthropometric History of China, Japan, and Korea
- Economics and Human Biology in Latin America
- Racial Differences in Health in the United States: A Long-Run Perspective
- Antebellum Puzzle: The Decline in Heights at the Onset of Modern Economic Growth
- The Anthropometric History of the Mediterranean World
Abstract and Keywords
The United States has a long and ongoing history of racial inequality. This chapter surveys the literature on one aspect of that history: long-run trends in racial differences in health. We focus on standard measures such as infant mortality and life expectancy but also consider available data on specific diseases and chronic conditions. Our basic conclusion is that large improvements have occurred in the average health of African Americans during the 20th century, both in absolute terms and relative to whites. These health advancements occurred steadily throughout the 20th century, with the peak period of improvement between 1920 and 1945 (infant mortality) and 1940 and 1960 (overall life expectancy). We attribute the improvements to successful efforts to fight specific diseases, improvements in public health, and narrowing of racial gaps in education and income. Although racial inequality in health outcomes has fallen in the long term, significant disparities remain today.
Leah Boustan is professor of economics at Princeton University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is the author of Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets.
Robert A. Margo is professor of economics at Boston University and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His presidential address to the Economic History Association, “Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality,” was published in the Journal of Economic History.
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