CDE Working Paper #2001-01

Does Population Composition Explain the US Advantage in Old-Age Mortality?

Karen Swallen


Previous research indicated that once Americans achieve age 80, they have longer life expectancy than European populations. A number of potential explanations for this finding have been proposed. This paper investigates whether the inclusion of immigrants in the American population deflates mortality rates enough to explain the crossover. First, mortality rates are calculated controlling for nativity; second, mortality of second-generation Americans is taken into account. Excluding these populations from the white, non-Hispanic American population is not sufficient to remove the crossover, although it does push the crossover two years older. Analyses indicate that Hispanic ethnicity (often included within the “white” population in American demographic data) may exert a more powerful compositional effect than nativity.