This is fascinating to me. Does anyone have a decent hypothesis, or want to weigh in to support one of the hypotheses below?
[Eugene Volokh, March 24, 2005 at 4:42pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
Why Are Hispanics Living Longer Than Non-Hispanic Whites?
Seems like they are ( http://www.census.gov/population/documentation/twps0038/tabC.txt ); their life expectancy at birth is 2.4 years higher for men and 3.6 years higher for women. My intuitive assumption was that it should be a little less than for non-Hispanic whites, since Hispanics tend to be poorer than non-Hispanic whites. Yet obviously my intuitive assumption is wrong.
I’m genuinely curious about this ? if anyone has actual demographic or medical knowledge on this subject (as opposed to just seat-of-the-pants speculation), I’d love to hear it.
Thanks to Slate for the pointer ( http://slate.com/id/2115261/ ).
UPDATE: Could it just be that they smoke less (16.7% vs. 23.6% for non-Hispanic whites) ( http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=36002 )? On the other hand, Mexican-Americans are more likely to be overweight or obese than non-Hispanic whites ( http://www.obesity.org/subs/fastfacts/Obesity_Minority_Pop.shtml ). I’ve seen no statistics for non-Mexican-American obesity.
FURTHER UPDATE: Reader Gabriel Rossman tells me there’s a name for this ? the Hispanic Paradox. Here’s a Washington Post article on the subject ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A9472-2004Dec17?language=printer ), with some conjecture; and here’s the academic article that the Post seems to be discussing ( http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/demography/v041/41.3palloni.html ). Here are the conclusions:
The Hispanic adult mortality advantage is not “Hispanic.” Rather, it is a feature only of foreign-born Other Hispanics and foreign-born Mexicans ? not of Puerto Ricans or Cubans, whether born in the United States or abroad.
The foreign-born Mexican and Other Hispanic adult mortality advantage is not trivial. It amounts to experiencing mortality rates that are 35% to 47% lower than those experienced by non-Hispanic whites. In turn, these differences translate into approximately five to eight years of additional life expectancy at age 45.
The behavior of mortality slopes produces strong signs of return-migration effects [i.e., that when immigrants are seriously ill they go back to their home country] for foreign-born Mexicans but not for Other Hispanics. . . .
The observed advantage favoring Other Hispanics persists even after indirect consequences of healthy-migrant effects (duration of stay, state of residence) are accounted for and is resistant to age and slope effects, as well as to unmeasured heterogeneity. This does not mean that healthy-migrant effects [i.e., that healthy people are more likely than sick people to move here] are absent, but that, if they exist, they are not reflected strongly enough in the mechanisms we were able to identify (duration or residence effects).
The cultural hypotheses received no support. We uncovered effects suggesting that those who live in ethnically more cohesive communities have lower mortality, as one would expect from the cultural hypotheses. But these conditions do not account for the Hispanic advantage, nor do they alter the effects of membership in a group. It is not because foreign-born Mexicans or Other Hispanics have a higher propensity to live in cohesive communities that they experience lower mortality than do non-Hispanic whites. And it is not because there are extra gains accruing from residence in those communities among some Hispanics that there are mortality advantages.
This has been a partially successful exploration of the problem. We were able to justify a model that accounts for part of the advantage and attribute it to return-migration effects. However, the preferred model that spawned this interpretation neither rests on robust, uncontested grounds nor is complete, since part of the advantage ? the part associated with Other Hispanics?remains thoroughly unexplained.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A demographer-lawyer reader writes that “The reasons for mortality differentials by race (and Hispanic ethnicity) are not well-understood, and there is a great deal of debate about it. However, there are reasons to think some of these differentials are due to data problems and differing methodologies.” He points to this page for the technical background on the numbers quoted by the Slate article ( http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0038.html#B23 ).