Racial Disparity in Family Member Deaths Can Add to Overall Racial Inequality

A study by the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin finds that African-Americans are more likely than Whites to experience the loss of a parent during childhood and more likely to be exposed to multiple family member deaths by mid-life. The authors state that these statistics present an underappreciated layer of racial inequality, which results from reoccurring bereavement. This may lead to the intergenerational transmission of Black health disadvantages.

In a study of more than 42,000 individuals born in the 1980s, the authors found that Blacks were three times more likely than Whites to lose a mother, more than twice as likely to lose a father and 20 percent more likely to lose a sibling by age 10. African Americans were two and a half times more likely than Whites to lose a child by age 30. The authors note that bereavement following the death of even one close family member has lasting adverse consequences for health. Premature losses are especially devastating.

Debra Umberson, a sociology professor who is the director of the Population Research Center and lead author of the study, states that “the potentially substantial damage to surviving family members is a largely overlooked area of racial disadvantage. By calling attention to this heightened vulnerability of Black Americans, our findings underscore the need to address the potential impact of more frequent and earlier exposure to family member deaths in the process of cumulative disadvantage.”

Dr. Umberson added that “death of family members is highly likely to disrupt and strain other family relationships as well as the formation, duration and quality of relationships across the life course, further contributing to a broad range of adverse life outcomes including poor health and lower life expectancy.”

The article, “Death of Family Members as an Overlooked Source of Racial Disadvantage in the United States,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Two Black Scholars Appointed to Faculty Positions

The new faculty are Esther Jones at Brown University and Dagmawi Woubshet at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is Established at Bowie State University

"The new program will help to increase the number of counselor educators within the counseling field and the number of competent Black counselor educators," says Dr. Otis Williams, chair of the Bowie State University department of counseling and psychological studies.

Elizabeth City State University Partners With the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Increase Representation of Black Graduate...

"We are excited by this partnership with UT Health Science Center and the opportunities this brings to our students who wish to pursue advanced degrees," said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the Elizabeth City State University School of Science, Health and Technology.

Kimberly White-Smith Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education

“Through her leadership and scholarship, Dr. White-Smith inspires a new generation of teachers to serve students and approach their work with equity, compassion, and respect,” said Gail F. Baker, provost and senior vice president at the University of San Diego. 

Featured Jobs