Friday, September 21, 2012

Life Expectancy for Low Education Groups in the US is Worsening

It is well known that there are significant socioeconomic gradients in mortality and morbidity, and there is a substantial literature on this subject. Nevertheless, there are many people who do not seem to find these trends concerning. Or at least, not concerning enough for society to act upon. Whatever about increasing relative differences, it is quite a different matter to see increases in actual mortality rates. Especially in a country like the US, and especially given the recent substantial increases in (average) life expectancy. This deserves more coverage and should be seen in the context of the similar pattern in real wages for certain groups.

The following NYT Article discusses the issue. The abstract for the article being cited is below.

Differences In Life Expectancy Due To Race And Educational Differences Are Widening, And Many May Not Catch Up

Health Affairs, August 2012, vol. 31 no. 8, 1803-1813

    S. Jay Olshansky, Toni Antonucci, Lisa Berkman, Robert H. Binstock, Axel Boersch-Supan, John T. Cacioppo, Bruce A. Carnes, Laura L. Carstensen, Linda P. Fried, Dana P. Goldman, James Jackson, Martin Kohli, John Rother, Yuhui Zheng, John Rowe


It has long been known that despite well-documented improvements in longevity for most Americans, alarming disparities persist among racial groups and between the well-educated and those with less education. In this article we update estimates of the impact of race and education on past and present life expectancy, examine trends in disparities from 1990 through 2008, and place observed disparities in the context of a rapidly aging society that is emerging at a time of optimism about the next revolution in longevity. We found that in 2008 US adult men and women with fewer than twelve years of education had life expectancies not much better than those of all adults in the 1950s and 1960s. When race and education are combined, the disparity is even more striking. In 2008 white US men and women with 16 years or more of schooling had life expectancies far greater than black Americans with fewer than 12 years of education—14.2 years more for white men than black men, and 10.3 years more for white women than black women. These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two “Americas,” if not multiple others, in terms of life expectancy, demarcated by level of education and racial-group membership. The message for policy makers is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.

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