EUGENE, OR - Racial stereotypes persist on U.S. death certificates that used to calculate official vital statistics, researchers found.
Sociologists at the University of Oregon and University of California, Irvine, found when coroners, medical examiners or funeral directors fill out death certificates, it appears the racial classifications are influenced by the decedent's cause of death in ways that reflect long-running stereotypes about violence and alcoholism.
Aliya Saperstein, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, and UC Irvine sociologists Andrew Noymer and Andrew M. Penner, reviewed 22,905 death certificates drawn from the National Mortality Followback Survey, which provides a sample of U.S. residents who die in a given year and next of kin information of a person familiar with a deceased person's life history.
The study, published in the PLoS One, found American Indians were 2.6 times more likely than whites to die of cirrhosis or chronic liver disease and blacks were 6.6 times more likely than whites to be homicide victims.
"We didn't find much inconsistency, but we shouldn't be finding these patterns by cause of death at all," Saperstein said in a statement.
"Either there shouldn't be discrepancies, or they should be more randomly distributed. The skew we found reinforces existing racial disparities."