Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 143–152 | Cite as

Strange Harvest: a Cross-sectional Ecological Analysis of the Association Between Historic Lynching Events and 2010–2014 County Mortality Rates

  • Janice C. ProbstEmail author
  • Saundra Glover
  • Victor Kirksey



While the causes of lynching, a violent expression of racism, have been explored, little research has addressed the long-term consequences of this phenomenon. We examined the associaton between living in a county with a history of lynching and contemporary mortality rates within Southern US states.


County-level data for lynchings between 1877 and 1950 were available for 1221 counties. Lynching rates were standardized to the 1930 population. Age-adjusted mortality rates were aggregated over 2010–2014 to allow sufficient observations in small counties. Multivariable linear regression examined the association between lynching rate categories and mortality while holding other county characteristics constant.


Overall age-adjusted mortality ranged from 863 deaths per 100,000 persons in counties with no recorded lynchings to 910 in the highest lynching rate counties (p < 0.000). In adjusted models, living in the highest versus lowest lynching category was associated with 34.9 (95% confidence interval 13.3–56.7) additional deaths per 100,000 per year for white males, 23.7 (95% CI 7.48–40.0) deaths for white females, and 31.0 (95% CI 3.6–58.4) deaths for African American females. No association was found for African American male death rates (31.3; 95% CI − 13.6 to 76.1).


The mechanisms through which historic lynching events might be associated with contemporary mortality rates are not clear. We advocate further research into structural characteristics of counties that may influence such disparities.


Social determinants of health Minority health Population health 



Confidence interval


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Equal Justice Initiative


Economic Research Service, a branch of the US Department of Agriculture


National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research was reviewed by the Institutional Review Board of the University of South Carolina and categorized as “Not Human Research” under the Code of Federal Regulations (45 CFR 36).


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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