Racial and Ethnic Differences in Expectation of Length of Life: A Study of Older Adults

Jennifer Roebuck Bulanda, Bowling Green State University
Zhenmei Zhang, Bowling Green State University

Racial and ethnic differences in actual life expectancy are well established, but little research has investigated racial-ethnic variation in subjective life expectancy. Some research finds a race anomaly in subjective life expectancy, such that Blacks expect to live longer than Whites, when in actuality Blacks have a shorter life expectancy. This race difference remains unexplained, and prior research on subjective life expectancy has neglected to include Hispanics. We use data from the 1998 Wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine the subjective life expectancy of Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and those of other race-ethnicity. We find that Blacks expect a greater chance of living to both ages 75 and 85 than do Whites, while Hispanics and those of other race-ethnicity expect a greater chance of living to age 85 than do Whites. Self-rated health and socioeconomic status emerge as important predictors of racial-ethnic differences in subjective life expectancy.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Aging, Life Course, Health, Mortality, and Health Care