Research by faculty members with the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center and the Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM) department in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina reveals links between past racism and present public health outcomes.
Dr. Janice Probst, Dr. Saundra Glover, and graduate student Mr. Victor Kirksey examined the association between living in a county with a history of lynching and contemporary mortality rates within the Southern United States. Previous research has investigated the causes of lynching, a violent expression of racism, but little research has examined its long-term consequences.
The researchers looked at data for lynchings between 1877 and 1950 in more than 1200 counties and compared this information with aggregated mortality rates between 2010 and 2014. Controlling for a range of variables and adjusting for age, they found that there were higher death rates in counties with highest lynching rates.
County death rates ranged from 863 deaths per 100,000 persons in counties with no recorded lynchings up to 910 deaths per 100,000 persons in counties with the highest rates of lynching. Comparing the highest versus lowest counties, there are an additional 34.9 deaths per year for white males, 23.7 for white females, and 31.0 for African American females. The authors did not find an association for African American male death rates.
The researchers note that the mechanisms through which the culture that influenced historic lynching events might be associated with contemporary mortality rates are not clear. They recommend that future research examine the structural characteristics of counties that may influence such disparities.