Life Expectancy

Background

Life expectancy is the average number of years that a group of newborns is expected to live if the age-specific death rates present in the year of their birth remained consistent throughout their life. It is widely used as an important indicator to evaluate a community’s health status. As with changes in mortality rates, changes in life expectancy over time can be a signal of improving or worsening health in a population.

Although life expectancy has drastically improved throughout the 20th century, the United States as well as the District have experienced a downtick in recent years, with both estimates hovering between 78-79 years. However, for the first time, in 2017, the District's life expectancy (78.9 years) surpassed the nation's (78.6). Similar to national-level data, District-level data mask disparate trends by population groups and geographic areas. In 2017, there were gaps in life expectancy estimates between all wards. Similarly, there were differences in life expectancy between Black and White residents in every ward. The life-years of improvement between 2000-2017 ranged from 0.7 to 13.9 years.

When looking at the life expectancy estimates for the past five years, we see continued disparate outcomes between Black and White populations regardless of ward of residence. All differences were found to be significant. Latinx populations have higher life expectancy overall, which is a persistent outcome, commonly referenced as the “Hispanic Paradox or Latino Paradox” due to the socioeconomic and structural barriers faced by many who belong to Latinx communities.

Disparity represented by the difference between Black (non-Hispanic) residents' LE and White (non-Hispanic) residents' LE.

Life expectancy estimates by race/ethnicity are excluded from the above analyses when the calculated standard error is greater than 3.0.