WASHINGTON -- Americans generally are living longer than ever, but the life expectancy of blacks is continuing to shorten alarmingly, the Department of Health and Human Services reports.
In its annual compilation of statistics on the population's well-being, the department said that while life expectancy among the nation as a whole rose to a record 75.2 years last year, that for blacks fell to 69.2 years.
It also confirmed that the rate of infant mortality nationwide dropped sharply last year from 9.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 1989 to 9.1 deaths -- the lowest rate ever -- but that of blacks remained at levels more than twice as high as for whites.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan cited as reasons that the life expectancy of blacks was on the decline because the skyrocketing murder-rate among young black males and the growing number of cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Yesterday's report also sought for the first time to estimate the infant mortality and premature-death rates of minority groups besides blacks.
The new figures, which combine statistics recorded between 1983 and 1985, show the infant mortality rate for Japanese Americans at 6 deaths per 1,000; that for Chinese-Americans at 7.5; and that for Filipino-Americans at 8. All were lower than that for whites, which was 9.0.
The report said that infant mortality rates among various Hispanic groups varied widely -- from 8 per thousand for Cuban-Americans, 12.3 among Puerto Rican Americans and 8.8 among Mexican Americans.
In fact, the statistics showed that infant mortality among Mexican Americans was lower than among the white majority. The only other group showing a rate approaching the level of blacks was Native Americans, at 13.9.
The report also showed that the likelihood of death by violence or misadventure was also much higher among Latinos and Native Americans than among whites. But it said that Asian-Americans had the lowest death-rate for almost all causes of death and in virtually every age-bracket.
Department officials cautioned that the data on ethnic groups other than blacks and whites was incomplete and that detailed numerical comparisons were not yet available.
Sullivan urged Congress to "replace their opinions with some dollars" and approve funding for programs to increase prenatal care, immunization and the Head Start program.