Death rates at specific life stages mold the sex gap in life expectancy




Female life expectancy exceeds male life expectancy. Males at ages 15 to 40 die at rates that are often three times female levels, but this excess mortality is not the main cause of the life expectancy gap. Few deaths occur at younger adult ages compared with mortality after age 60 or, historically, among newborns. Our demographic analysis shows that, up through the early decades of the 20th century, the life expectancy gap largely resulted from excess deaths of infant boys. Afterward, higher mortality among men 60+ became crucial. The higher mortality of males at ages 15 to 40 has played a modest role.

Author(s): Virginia Zarulli, Ilya Kashnitsky, James W. Vaupel

Supplementary online material:


Publication Date: 18 May 2021

Publication Site: PNAS

Reductions in 2020 US life expectancy due to COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on the Black and Latino populations


Abstract: COVID-19 has resulted in a staggering death toll in the United States: over 215,000 by mid-October 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black and Latino Americans have experienced a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, reflecting persistent structural inequalities that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19 and mortality risk for those infected. We estimate life expectancy at birth and at age 65 y for 2020, for the total US population and by race and ethnicity, using four scenarios of deaths—one in which the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred and three including COVID-19 mortality projections produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Our medium estimate indicates a reduction in US life expectancy at birth of 1.13 y to 77.48 y, lower than any year since 2003. We also project a 0.87-y reduction in life expectancy at age 65 y. The Black and Latino populations are estimated to experience declines in life expectancy at birth of 2.10 and 3.05 y, respectively, both of which are several times the 0.68-y reduction for Whites. These projections imply an increase of nearly 40% in the Black−White life expectancy gap, from 3.6 y to over 5 y, thereby eliminating progress made in reducing this differential since 2006. Latinos, who have consistently experienced lower mortality than Whites (a phenomenon known as the Latino or Hispanic paradox), would see their more than 3-y survival advantage reduced to less than 1 y.

Authors: Theresa Andrasfay and Noreen Goldman

Reference: PNAS February 2, 2021 118 (5) e2014746118;

Publication Date: 2 February 2021

Publication Site: PNAS