Neighborhood social context and racial differences in women's heart disease mortality

J Health Soc Behav. 1998 Jun;39(2):91-107.


Compared to white women, black women experience similar rates of heart disease morbidity, but higher rates of heart disease mortality. This puzzling relationship may be due to several factors working at varied levels to affect each race. For example, the high heart disease mortality rate may be due to individual health or socioeconomic risk factors or to social structural factors. We conduct a multi-level analysis to address these issues, using data from a newly released data file that links the National Health Interview Survey with death certificate information from the National Death Index, and with additional community level data from the 1990 Census STF-3A files. We are primarily interested in the effects of female-headship rates in the census tracts on coronary heart disease mortality (CHD) among black and white women. We find that women who live in communities with high concentrations of female-headed families are more likely to die of heart disease, net of other characteristics. For younger women, the effect appears to be routed primarily through poverty whereas for older women the effect of female-headship rates remains, net of other census tract characteristics. This study, then, highlights the importance of examining the effect of neighborhoods and their social content on mortality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Heart Diseases / ethnology*
  • Heart Diseases / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • White People*