This paper examines the demographic and social factors associated with differences in length of life by race. The results demonstrate that sociodemographic factors--age, sex, marital status, family size, and income--profoundly affect black and white mortality. Indeed, the racial gap in overall mortality could close completely with increased standards of living and improved lifestyles. Moreover, examining cause-specific mortality while adjusting for social factors shows that compared to whites, blacks have a lower mortality risk from respiratory diseases, accidents, and suicide; the same risk from circulatory diseases and cancer; and higher risks from infectious diseases, homicide, and diabetes. These results underscore the importance of examining social characteristics to understand more clearly the race differences in overall and cause-specific mortality.