Life expectancy: Your race should not determine your ability to live a long and healthy life. 

Insights & Analyses

  • Although life expectancy has increased since 2005 for almost all racial and ethnic groups identified by the census, disparities persist: life expectancy for Asian or Pacific Islanders is about 10 years longer than that of Black people and Native Americans.

  • New Hampshire and Hawaii have the highest life expectancy for Black people while the District of Columbia has the lowest. 

  • While Hawaii has the highest life expectancy for people overall, the state has the second-lowest life expectancy for Latinx residents at 77.2 years (compared to 83.8 years in West Virginia).

  • Life expectancy is highest for all residents in wealthier West coast regions, such as San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara compared to poorer, Southern regions such as Mobile, AL.

Drivers of Inequity

Life expectancy, a key indicator for health, reveals continued health disparities between racial groups. Black, Latinx, and Native Americans are more likely than White and Asian Americans to live in areas with concentrated poverty due to the United States' long history of racial segregation forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing ones such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending. Impoverished neighborhoods often have higher exposures to environmental toxins, are targeted by Big Sugar and Big Tobacco that promote unhealthy products, and lack quality health-care services. Because of these inequities, these groups often experience health complications at higher rates than their White and Asian American counterparts. Researchers have also found that people of color experience deterioration as they age at higher rates than White Americans due to the psychological impacts of marginalization.


Grow an equitable economy: Policies that promote a long and healthy life for all

Strategy in Action

Kansas City fights racial inequities in life expectancy. The average life expectancy for Kansas City residents is 77 years, but it is only 69 years for residents living in zip codes with predominantly people of color and the city's residents have a 15.5-year gap between those living in the zip codes with the highest and lowest life expectancy. In response to this inequity, in 2019, Kansas City launched the Community Health Improvement Plan, which has allowed the Parks Department to offer a free, annual recreation pass to anyone who lives in one of the six zip codes with the lowest life expectancies. This new policy also offers recipients access to fitness classes, as well as a leadership training program. Learn more.

Photo: OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Related Indicators