Figures 1-3 and 1-4 show six leading causes of death for males and females by racial and ethnic group. The rates and ratios shown are subject to the same qualifications as overall mortality rates, as well as not being age-standardized. Diseases of the heart and neoplasms are the leading underlying causes of death for every racial and ethnic group, between them accounting for over half of all deaths at age 65 and older. For other causes, rankings vary slightly by group (so that diabetes, the sixth cause shown, actually ranks lower for some groups than Alzheimer’s disease).
Older blacks have higher death rates than older whites from the two leading causes, heart diseases and neoplasms. For the third cause, cerebrovascular diseases, the death rates are sharply higher among men and somewhat marginally higher among women. Blacks do die less often from the fourth and fifth causes shown—lower respiratory infections and influenza and pneumonia. But older blacks are also more likely than whites to die from diabetes, nephritis, and septicemia (Hummer et al., 2004). Data on causes of death therefore generally substantiate higher mortality among older blacks than whites.