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In recent decades, scholars have noted the connections of health, socioeconomic status, and the role that individual, systemic, and institutional racism, legal and de-facto segregation, and criminalization (Wacquant, 2009) have had in producing health disparities, including unequal life expectancy rates between black Americans and other racial groups in the country. Over the past century, African American males and females have experienced shorter life expectancies than the national averages. Many rationalize this troubling disparity by citing individual “lifestyle factors” as a primary cause, thereby suggesting that health outcomes are a simple matter of individual choice. Otherwise known as healthism (Cheek, 2008), this ideology fails to acknowledge how social determinants such as where one lives, household income, and education can impact one’s ability to directly control their own health within constrained conditions. This study seeks to examine the historical underpinnings of racial disparities in health and how they ultimately impact life expectancy in addition to displaying that the healthism ideology is not basis for biological explanation.

Presentation Date


Faculty Advisor

Ronald Mower, PhD


Scholars Day


McNair, African American, black, health, life expectancy, healthcare, social determinants, urban, rural, socioeconomic status, living environment, disease


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Environmental Public Health | Race and Ethnicity

Destined to Die Prematurely: An Examination of African American Life Expectancy