The Significance of Differential Record Linkage for Understanding Black-White Mortality Differentials

Joseph T. Lariscy, Duke University

Mortality rates among black adults exceed those of white adults throughout much of the life course. The differential is widest in young adulthood, then rates converge with increasing age until a crossover occurs at older ages. Data quality issues in survey-linked mortality studies may hinder accurate estimation of this disparity, particularly if the linkage of surveys to death records during mortality follow-up is less accurate for black adults. This study assesses black-white differences in the linkage of the 1986-2004 National Health Interview Survey to the National Death Index through 2006. Match class and match score (indicators of linkage quality) differ by race, with blacks exhibiting less certain matches than whites, particularly at older ages. Estimates of black-white mortality differentials are sensitive to alternative linkage criteria, with tightened linkage criteria resulting in a more favorable mortality risk among blacks relative to whites at older ages and an earlier crossover age.

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Presented in Poster Session 8: Adult Health and Mortality