Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Anthropology

Department name when degree awarded

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Eric N. Reither


Eric N. Reither


Sojung Lim


Erin Hofmann


Hyojun Park


Paul Peppard


Life expectancy is not the same for all people in the United States. While some enjoy life expectancies of more than 80 years, others are at risk of dying much sooner. The following studies investigate how different causes of death such as homicide, diabetes, heart disease, and drug poisoning contribute across the life span to: 1) life expectancy gaps across different sex, racial, ethnic, and education groups, and 2) life expectancy change over time for different sex, racial, ethnic, and education groups. Each study focuses on a different area of the U.S., with Chapter 2 focusing on the national-level, Chapter 3 focusing on the Great Lakes region, and Chapter 4 focusing on Washington, D.C. In Chapter 2, I find that homicide among low-educated, young males contributes to life expectancy gaps between Black and white males, and also life expectancy gaps between Hispanic and white males. Additionally, heart disease among older, higher-educated males and females contributes to life expectancy gaps between Blacks and whites. In Chapter 3, I find that drug poisoning among all Black and white males and females has contributed to reductions in life expectancy over time in the Great Lakes region, but drug poisoning has decreased life expectancy particularly for low-educated, white males and females. In Chapter 4, I find that homicide contributed most to the life expectancy gap between Black and white males at young ages in Washington, D.C., while heart disease and cancer contributed most to Black-white life expectancy gaps among both males and females at later stages of life in Washington, D.C. The findings from these studies can inform future research on life expectancy differences and guide targeted public health interventions to help reduce life expectancy disparities in the U.S.