Researchers Find Black Mortality Rates Higher in Racist Locales


by Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

A groundbreaking study led by researchers from the University of Maryland College Park’s School of Health found Black mortality rates are much higher in areas with greater levels of racism.

The study gauged the levels of racism across 196 media markets based on the volume of Google searches containing the “n-word” in each area. Researchers qualified that not all the searches were necessarily motivated by racism, but assumed “that areas with a greater concentration of these searches have higher levels of racism overall.”

The difficulty of measuring racism through surveys led the researchers to apply the methodology of an Internet query-based measure—previously designed by study co-author Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz—to find the relationship between racism and mortality risk.

“Racial disparities in health and disease represent a significant public health concern,” David H. Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Racism is a social toxin that increases susceptibility to disease and generates racial disparities in health.”

The examination found that areas with higher frequencies of racist Google queries had a higher prevalence of Black deaths. Those findings remained the same when additional demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the areas, such as the number of Blacks, and levels of education and poverty, were taken into account.

The correlation also remained unchanged when results were adjusted for the White mortality rate and other socioeconomic factors.

“These findings add to mounting evidence that population-level racial disparities in health are driven by racism,” said Chae. “Racism represents a serious social and moral dilemma. The persistence of racial disparities in disease and mortality reflects the fact that issues of racism remain unresolved.”

The study, entitled “Association Between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality” was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

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