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Reparations Could Equalize Life Expectancy of Black Americans and White Americans

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Reparations may help shrink the gaps between the mortality rates of Black Americans and white Americans, according to a new study

Published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study, titled “Association Between Racial Wealth Inequities and Racial Disparities in Longevity Among US Adults and Role of Reparations Payments, 1992 to 2018,” was conducted by researchers from universities and medical schools such as Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, Drexel, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania. 

For the study, the researchers looked at the information of 33, 501 Black and white Americans who are now middle-aged and were part of the Health and Retirement Study for at least 26 years. 

Created in 1992 by the University of Michigan, the Health and Retirement Study focuses on documenting aging through regular interviews throughout the years. Amongst the information, they look to collect are investments and ownership of vehicles and houses to measure their standard of living. 

Using the data gathered by the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers from the newly published study found that, of the participants, Black participants had an increased 26% chance of passing away around the average age of 59, taking away about four years of their life expectancy. 

In their results, the researchers determined that wealth had a significant impact on this rate; when they created hypothetical projections on how reparations would affect the gap in mortality rates, they found that, by closing the wealth gap, the life expectancy of Black Americans would be equal to that of white Americans. 

“Our findings add to the compelling moral case for reparations,” said co-author Dr. Kathryn Himmelstein in a press release. “Compensating Black families for the economic legacy of enslavement and discrimination would do more than heal their finances – it would improve their health and add years to their lives.”

Despite efforts to decrease it, the wealth gap in the U.S. continues to remain large as white households continue to hold most of the country’s wealth. According to the latest information released by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in a 2021 report, Black and Hispanic Americans have half of the wealth that white Americans accumulate. 

The report also reflected an increase in income inequality as well as wealth inequality with white Americans being identified as the racial group that drives this inequality the most. 

To help decrease the wealth gap, public policy research group Center for American Progress recommends addressing racial inequality by increasing efforts to give economic security to Black American households, focusing on the Minority Business Development Agency and figuring out new ways to hand out federal funds.

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