Racial and ethnic inequality


, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 77-91

First online:

Racial inequality in active life among adult americans

  • Mark D. HaywardAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Population Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University
  • , Melonie HeronAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Center for the Study of Population, Florida State University

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Is a shorter life with more years lived in poor health a defining attribute of the life cycle of disadvantaged groups? Based on the J990 5% Public Use Microdata Survey, we develop life table models of healthy (or active) life for the major racial groups, by sex, in the United States. The analysis underscores the complexity of the relationship between morbidity and mortality in the population. For Asians, longer life is associated with fewer years lived in poor health. In contrast, Native Americans’ relatively longer lives are accompanied by extended periods of chronic health problems. of all racial groups, blacks live the fewest years, and they live a high proportion of those years with a chronic health problem. Hispanics also live substantially fewer years, yet the period of life they spend with a health problem is relatively compressed. Racial differences in the link between morbidity and mortality point to the importance of investigating how chronic diseases and disease prevention and treatment are related to active life across the population subgroups.