The gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans is smaller than it has ever been, thanks largely to a decline in the number of deaths resulting from heart disease and HIV infection, a new analysis has found.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the gap is still large: A black baby boy born today can expect to live 5.4 fewer years, on average, than his white counterpart, and a black baby girl will die 3.7 years earlier, on average, than her white counterpart.
The report, published in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., is based on government data on U.S. deaths in 2008, the most recent year that was available at the time of the study.
Since 2003, life expectancy "improved for everybody, but it improved a little bit more for blacks than it did for whites," said epidemiologist Sam Harper of McGill University in Montreal, senior author of the report.