Studies in African-American social demography

Mark Edward Hill, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation presents three research studies in African American social demography. Chapter 1 explores age misreporting on the death certificates of older African Americans and tests a model of age reporting accuracy based on the premise that age-linked institutional factors strongly influence age reporting. A matched record sample is used that links a representative sample of death certificates for African Americans aged 65+ in 1985 to records of the U.S. Censuses of 1900, 1910, and 1920. Only 53% of the matched subjects were found to have age in single years consistently reported in the two sources. Multivariate results suggest that limited interaction with mainstream “age-linked” institutions rather than purposeful deception is the primary cause of high levels of age misreporting among African American elders. As an alternative to survival analysis with longitudinal data, Chapter 2 introduces a method that can be applied when one observes the same cohort in two cross-sectional samples collected at different points in time. The method allows for estimation of a multivariate survivorship model that estimates the influence of multiple time-invariant factors on survival over the period separating the two samples. The method is illustrated through an investigation of factors responsible for the black-white racial survival gap among American women. Univariate estimates indicate that black women were 7 percent less likely to survive a 20-year follow-up period than were white women. When educational attainment is controlled, however, the racial differential virtually disappears. In an attempt to replicate recent findings documenting the influence of skin-color on the socioeconomic attainment of African Americans, Chapter 3 links a sample of southern-reared African American men to their childhood census records collected in 1920. The childhood census records used in this study classify African Americans as either black or mulatto, allowing for a unique investigation of color stratification in adult life. Results indicate that subjects identified as mulatto enjoyed modestly higher adult socioeconomic status compared with subjects identified as black. Differences in social origins are shown to be responsible for only 10 to 20 percent of the color gap in adult attainment, suggesting that color discrimination may be responsible for the bulk of the color differential. Findings point to the important influence of phenotypic characteristics in shaping the life chances of African Americans.

Subject Area

Demography|Ethnic studies|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Hill, Mark Edward, "Studies in African-American social demography" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926137.