Long before word recently broke that white referees in the National Basketball Association were calling fouls at a higher rate on black athletes than on white athletes, and long before studies found racial disparities in how black and white applicants get called for job interviews, researchers noted differences in the most troubling domain of all -- disparities in survival and health among people belonging to different racial groups. Black babies, according to the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have higher death rates than white babies. Black women are more than twice as likely as white women to die of cervical cancer. And in 2000, the death rate from heart disease was 29 percent higher among African Americans than among white adults, and the death rate from stroke was 40 percent higher.
Whether these troubling statistics are best understood in terms of physician bias is an open question, although bias--both intended and unconscious--almost certainly is part of the explanation.