STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to examine the patterns of black-white differences in stroke mortality across communities with varying levels of occupational structure in the southern region of the United States DESIGN--Annual age adjusted race-sex specific rates for stroke mortality were calculated for the years 1979-1981 and related to socioeconomic conditions. SETTING--The study involved 211 state economic areas comprising the southern region of the USA. STUDY POPULATION--Data on stroke mortality for black and white men and women between the ages of 35 and 74 years living in the study area were acquired from the National Center for Health Statistics. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Occupational structure was measured as the proportion of white collar workers in each state economic area, and is an indicator of the employment opportunities and related social and economic resources of a community. Stratified analyses and linear regression modelling indicate that communities of lower occupational structure have (a) higher levels of stroke mortality for all four race-sex groups (p less than 0.05) and (b) larger racial inequalities in stroke mortality (p less than 0.01). For men and women, the excess stroke mortality among blacks compared to whites is larger in communities of lower occupational structure. CONCLUSIONS--Consideration of occupational structure and related patterns of economic development is crucial for understanding the distribution of stroke mortality within and between racial groups, as well as for planning effective public health interventions. The larger racial inequalities in communities of lower occupational structure in the south suggest that aspects of the black experience which are conducive to high rates of stroke mortality are exacerbated in those communities. Public health interventions to reduce the racial and social inequalities in stroke mortality should recognise the social context within which nutritional, occupational, medical care, and environmental determinants of stroke are distributed.
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