Cause-of-Death Contribution to the Female-Male Gap in Life Expectancy in the United States

Magdalena Muszynska, Duke University
Roland Rau, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

In the last half a century improvements in mortality were characterized by different patterns for American males and females. We study the effect of four large groups of causes of death on the mean duration of life between ages 0 and 75 for both sexes. Our main hypothesis is that the narrowing sex-gap in mortality in the US since the mid-1970s resulted from differential benefits from medical developments for both sexes. In the years 1968--2004, we do observe excess female mortality from causes amenable to medical care. This effect, however, resulted from excess mortality from female breast cancer, and not a cause of death resulting from a disease that both sexes would be equally exposed to. We conclude that disregarding incidence rates, one cannot draw conclusions on the effectiveness and access to medical interventions to be a reason for the narrowing sex-gap in life expectancy.

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Presented in Poster Session 1