Saturday, August 26, 2006

Service in Iraq: Blacks have a death risk about 30 to 40 percent lower than that of non-blacks.

There is a very interesting article in The Washington Post today regarding service in Iraq and how risky it is. Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell write a statistical analysis based on information provided by Department odf Defense. The article provides detailed information on minorites, particularly African American women.

Source: The Washington Post
By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell
Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21

The consequences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for U.S. forces are being documented by the Defense Department with an exceptional degree of openness and transparency. Its daily and cumulative counts of deaths receive a great deal of publicity. But deaths alone don't indicate the risk for an individual. For this purpose, the number of deaths must be compared with the number of individuals exposed to the risk of death. The Defense Department has supplied us with appropriate data on exposure, and we take advantage of it to provide the first profile of military mortality in Iraq.

Facts related to Age, sex , race and ethnicity:

In contrast to the civilian population, mortality rates decline precipitously with age. Troops ages 17 to 19 have a death risk 4.6 times that of those 50 and older. Differences in rank by age undoubtedly contribute to this pattern, and so do differences in branch of service. Sixty-five percent of Marine deployments to Iraq were of those age 24 or younger, compared with only 39 percent of Army deployments. Women are not assigned to combat specialties in Iraq, although they do see enemy fire; their death rate is 18 percent that of men.

Identifying racial and ethnic differences in mortality is not straightforward because the Defense Department uses a different classification system for deaths than for deployments. Nevertheless, all attempts we have made to reconcile the two systems reach the same conclusion: Hispanics have a death risk about 20 percent higher than non-Hispanics, and blacks have a death risk about 30 to 40 percent lower than that of non-blacks. That low death rate appears to result from an overrepresentation of blacks in low-risk categories: For example, 19 percent of blacks in Iraq are women, compared with 9 percent of non-blacks, while 7 percent of blacks in Iraq are Marines, compared with 13 percent of non-blacks.

Samuel H. Preston is the Frederick J. Warren professor of demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Emily Buzzell is a student in the Health and Societies Program at Penn.

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