Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 1 » Cultural Diversity - Lifelong Processes, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Aleuts, And Eskimos, Asian And Pacific Islanders

Cultural Diversity - African Americans

age social population adults percent census

According to the 2000 census, African Americans are the second largest minority group, making up 12.3 percent of the resident population of the United States. (The Census Bureau changed its method of reporting racial categories for the 2000 census. Figures presented here count those who reported only one race. Individuals had the option of choosing more than one racial category. Adding those who chose African American in combination with some other category, the total African-American population was 12.9 percent.) African Americans in 2000 made up 8.4 percent of all persons age sixty-five and older, and are projected by 2050 to be 13.2 percent of older adults.

Studies of African-American older adults are now forsaking habitual black/white comparisons in favor of studies that explore the variety and depth of experience among people of African descent. All too often, researchers have taken a simplistic view of older African Americans and failed to note the considerable heterogeneity that exists among this population. A comparative disadvantage to whites is one legacy of generations of social, economic, political, and legal discrimination, but there are also traditions of cultural strength and resilience in kinship networks and black churches. At present, it is clear that African-American older adults tend to have higher morbidity and mortality rates than those of non-Hispanic whites. For many this is an outcome of lifelong poverty, poor educational resources, underemployment or unemployment, and inadequate access to health care. The cumulative effect is that many have reached older age with poor health and inadequate resources.

Yet, there is also considerable and growing variation among African-American older adults. Improvements in health care access since the 1960s and the emergence of a viable African-American middle class have produced a diversity among African Americans that parallels the variety observed in other population groups within the United States. Older African Americans display a wide range of social, economic, and cultural patterns.

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