European Immigration and Patterns of Intra- and Interracial Mortality Inequality in the United States, 1900 to 1960


European immigrants to the United States in the early twentieth century occupied a ``middle tier’’ in the ethnoracial hierarchy. The author uses mortality data disaggregated by nativity (1900–1960) and parental nativity (1900–1920) to examine intraracial and interracial mortality inequalities during this period. The findings suggest that variation within the white population mirrored the ethnoracial hierarchy: the U.S.-born white population with U.S.-born parents had the lowest rates of mortality from 1900 to 1920, and the foreign-born white population had higher rates than their U.S.-born counterparts. Given this heterogeneity, interracial inequality is higher when various U.S.-born white populations are the reference. Disaggregation also reveals divergent trends, such as the exceptionally high foreign-born mortality rates during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The findings suggest that analyses of mortality inequalities that rely on white population averages may understate intra- and interracial inequalities in relation to the ethnoracial hierarchy of the era.