Two Americas: The Effects of Single Motherhood on the Racial Disparity in American Life Expectancy
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Throughout American history, a significant gap in longevity has existed between the black and white populations of the United States, creating the potential for “two Americas” to arise. For decades, the average white individual has been projected to live significantly longer than the average black individual. In that time, single motherhood has increased nearly 8 times in its prevalence since the 1960s. This increase has had a particularly profound impact on the American black family—today nearly 3 of every 4 black babies are born to an unmarried mother. Over the past few decades, females headed a vast majority of black households, while females historically headed only a slim minority of white households. Because of this stark contrast in family structure between the black and white populations, this thesis proposes that single motherhood—through a variety of socioeconomic factors affecting a person’s life—is at least partially a contributor to the persistent racial gap in American life expectancy today. By decreasing the amount of non-marital births in America, more opportunities arise for children to climb in social status, potentially enabling them to close the racial gap in life expectancy that has plagued Americans for decades.
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