Mortality and Race and Ethnicity in the United States

Background and Purpose

The SOA’s Mortality and Longevity Strategic Research Program Steering Committee (MLPSC) has initiated this study to examine the existing literature relating to the association between mortality (or longevity) and race and ethnicity. Results of the research will aid actuaries in their work in identifying, measuring, modeling and analyzing possible mortality differentials when considering full U.S. population analysis and to provide objective and insightful information for ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion discussions.  We intend such information to help actuaries understand the potential impact of including race and ethnicity, or their underlying explanatory factors in actuarial models so actuaries can better inform their stakeholders of these impacts.

Additionally, the MLPSC will use the results of the study to identify gaps in the literature and potentially initiate follow-up research to address these needs. 

Research Objective

Past studies have shown a relationship between mortality and race and ethnicity in the United States population. The MLPSC is seeking a researcher(s) to perform a literature review examining topics impacting data, measurement, analysis, and modeling of mortality in the context of race and ethnicity and its underlying proxy variables. The researcher(s) will summarize findings in a report suitable for publication on the SOA’s website.

The following are proposed topics of interest that may be addressed in the study:

  1. Potential data sources
    • Identification of potential data sources and any available assessment of data quality and validity, including whether records are based on insured lives, population data, or other data;
    • Identification of missing data elements that should be investigated for mortality analysis, modeling, and projection; and
    • Identification of known biases (systematic and otherwise) and limitations within each data source.
  2. Model parameterization
    • Relative risk factors as determinants of mortality, and their association with race and ethnicity (or, race and ethnicity as a determinant of mortality, and their association with relative risk factors). Relative risk factors might include socioeconomic status, climate, environmental concerns, access to social services, or other factors; 
    • Explanatory factors that may underlie the association between mortality and race and ethnicity such as location (i.e., zip code, county level, state level, other) and other factors;
    • Impact of COVID-19 as a disruptor or exacerbator to the historic relationship between mortality and race and ethnicity; identification of other shocks or other major disease factors that may change or influence the relationship between mortality and race and ethnicity;
    • Impact of gender, age or other factors on the relationship between mortality and race and ethnicity; and
    • Techniques to control for race and ethnicity in mortality models and projections.
  3. Model governance and validation
    • Identification and high-level assessment of any known models which allow for race and ethnicity, or their explanatory factors, in projections;
    • Any leading practices identified when analyzing the effect of race and ethnicity (or their explanatory variables) in mortality analysis – known biases, known statistically credible techniques, appropriate disclaimers; and
    • Known proxy variables for race and ethnicity, or those identified for future research.
  4. Identification of areas for future research

Note that the above list is not meant to be exhaustive but merely examples of proposed topics that may be researched.

The MLPSC will appoint a Project Oversight Group (POG) to oversee the project.  The POG will work with the researcher(s) to finalize the topic areas to be include in the study. 


To facilitate the evaluation of proposals, the following information should be submitted:

  1. Resumes of the researcher(s), including any graduate student(s) expected to participate, indicating how their background, education and experience bear on their qualifications to undertake the research. If more than one researcher is involved, a single individual should be designated as the lead researcher and primary contact. The person submitting the proposal must be authorized to speak on behalf of all the researchers as well as for the firm or institution on whose behalf the proposal is submitted. An attempt must be made to reflect the SOA’s commitment to DEI initiatives in the composition of the research team.
  2. An outline of the approach to be used (e.g. literature search, model, etc.), emphasizing issues that require special consideration. Details should be given regarding the techniques to be used, collateral material to be consulted, and possible limitations of the analysis.
  3. A description of the expected deliverables and any supporting data, tools or other resources.
  4. Cost estimates for the research, including computer time, salaries, report preparation, material costs, etc. Such estimates can be in the form of hourly rates, but in such cases, time estimates should also be included. Any guarantees as to total cost should be given and will be considered in the evaluation of the proposal. While cost will be a factor in the evaluation of the proposal, it will not necessarily be the decisive factor.
  5. A schedule for completion of the research, identifying key dates or time frames for research completion and report submissions. The MLPSC is interested in completing this project in a timely manner. The project is expected to be completed within six months from the start date. Suggestions in the proposal for ensuring timely delivery, such as fee adjustments, are encouraged.
  6. Other related factors that give evidence of a proposer's capabilities to perform in a superior fashion should be detailed.

Selection Process

The POG is responsible for recommending the proposal to be funded.  Input from other knowledgeable individuals also may be sought, but the POG will make the final recommendation, subject to SOA leadership approval. The SOA's Research Actuary will provide staff actuarial support.


Any questions regarding this RFP should be directed to Ronora Stryker, SOA Research Actuary (phone: 847-706-3614; email:    

Notification of Intent to Submit Proposal

If you intend to submit a proposal, please e-mail written notification by August 6, 2021 to Jan Schuh.

Submission of Proposal

Please e-mail a copy of the proposal to Jan Schuh.

Proposals must be received no later than August 20, 2021. It is anticipated that all proposers will be informed of the status of their proposal by the end of September 2021.

Note: Proposals are considered confidential and proprietary.


The selection of a proposal is conditioned upon and not considered final until a Letter of Agreement is executed by both the Society of Actuaries and the researcher.

The Society of Actuaries reserves the right to not award a contract for this research. Reasons for not awarding a contract could include, but are not limited to, a lack of acceptable proposals or a finding that insufficient funds are available. The Society of Actuaries also reserves the right to redirect the project as is deemed advisable.

The Society of Actuaries plans to hold the copyright to the research and to publish the results with appropriate credit given to the researcher(s).

The Society of Actuaries may choose to seek public exposure or media attention for the research.  By submitting a proposal, you agree to cooperate with the Society of Actuaries in publicizing or promoting the research and responding to media requests.

The Society of Actuaries may also choose to market and promote the research to members, candidates and other interested parties.  You agree to perform promotional communication requested by the Society of Actuaries, which may include, but is not limited to, leading a webcast on the research, presenting the research at an SOA meeting, and/or writing an article on the research for an SOA newsletter.