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Wise Young
03-03-2006, 05:28 AM

Black Widows (and Widowers)

By Jeffrey Kluger | Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2006 | Permalink

The Journal: American Sociological Review

The Study: One of the great bits of received wisdom about the institution of marriage is that when one spouse dies, the other faces a dramatically increased risk of death as well. A new study shows that that's true—to a point. The question appears to turn on race.

From 1993 to 2002, two Harvard University sociologists conducted a long-term study of 410,272 American couples in which both spouses were over 67 years old. Men, they found, faced an 18% greater risk of dying shortly after their wives died and women were 16% likelier to follow their husbands. But that only applied if the couples were white. Among blacks, the so-called widowhood effect was non-existent. Apparently the surviving partner grieved and then moved on.