One explanation: “Counties with a higher percentage of residents of color could also have a higher number of segregated neighborhoods and communities,” and segregated communities can concentrate poverty, the report points out, further restricting access to quality schools, safe parks, good jobs, and banks and capital for business development. Chronic stress from systemic racism and discrimination in health care have also put predominantly Black communities at a disadvantage when it comes to life expectancy.
“Evidence is clear that counties with more Black residents are having worse outcomes, and it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to live a longer and healthier life,” Tan says.
“Those extra years are another anniversary, potentially another grandchild — that’s what people are missing out on.”
The coronavirus pandemic and life expectancy
Though the data in the report predates the coronavirus pandemic, Tan says COVID-19 — which has taken an especially heavy toll on adults 50 and older — has the potential to further exacerbate life expectancy disparities at midlife.
For example, COVID-19 hospitalization rates for Black, Hispanic and Native Americans is nearly five times as high as for white Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Blacks are also over twice as likely to die from a coronavirus infection as whites.