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Demography. 1996 May;33(2):193-209.

African-American mortality at older ages: results of a matching study.

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  • 1Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6298, USA.


In this paper we investigate the quality of age reporting on death certificates of elderly African-Americans. We link a sample of death certificates of persons age 65+ in 1985 to records for the same individuals in U.S. censuses of 1900, 1910, and 1920 and to records of the Social Security Administration. The ages at death reported on death certificates are too young on average. Errors are greater for women than for men. Despite systematic under-reporting of age at death, too many deaths are registered at ages 95+. This excess reflects an age distribution of deaths that declines steeply with age, so that the base for upward transfers into an age category is much larger than the base for the transfers downward and out. When corrected ages at death are used to estimate age-specific death rates, African-American mortality rates increase substantially above age 85 and the racial "crossover" in mortality disappears. Uncertainty about white rates at ages 95+, however, prevents a decisive racial comparison at the very oldest ages.

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