It looks as if, after correcting for current imprisonment, the number of black men that are truly missing is not nearly as large as has been suggested. Here’s a simple way of looking at it: the number of black infants born in a year is about 600,000 [ 661,701 in 1990, 587,781 in 1995, 601,346 in 2000, 583,759 in 2005]. A little more than half of those are boys: call it 300,000 . The average number of black male victims of homicide in recent years is a little over 7000 a year [average of 7267 per year over the period 1995-2007] . Rates were some higher in the 1980s: 9767 in 1980, 7891 in 1985, 11489 in 1990.
Which would mean that something like 2.3% of black men eventually became victims of homicide in recent years, perhaps as many as 3% during the peak crime years in the 70s thru the mid-90s.
Total deaths of black men by homicide since 1970 have to be fewer than 400,000. If a couple of million black men are missing – a couple of million more than those in currently in prison – homicide can’t be the primary explanation.
What about some other kind of mortality that disproportionately strikes black men? Well, there is one, cardiovascular disease. According to the CDC, it has a larger effect on average lifespan than homicide Average lifespan is 76.5 for white men, 71.8 for black men. Higher homicide rates among black men explain just under a year of that difference – more is explained by higher rates of cardiovascular disease. But of course cardiovascular deaths generally occur in mid-life or later.
About 250,000 black men are on active service in the Army. They don’t show up in the Census tables of the ‘civilian noninstitutionalized population’, but they’re certainly not missing.
Blacks have had significantly higher AIDS-related mortality than whites. At the worst of the epidemic, in 1991, before the effective antiviral cocktails, HIV was the leading cause of death among young black men [25-44], more common than homicide. This risk is much smaller today. So how many missing black men died of AIDS? Total deaths due to AIDS among blacks are bout 250,000: most were men, but a significant number (perhaps a third?) were among women. So AIDS may explain 160,000-200,000 missing black men.
I could see about a real shortage of about half a million black men (50 and under) compared to the number expected if blacks had the same mortality rates as whites, and another ~600,000 imprisoned [state and federal]. Any number much higher than that must be due to guys escaping being counted by the Feds, or alien abduction.