Home > Uncategorized > Life-Span Gap Skews Entitlements Toward the Well-Off – Bloomberg

Life-Span Gap Skews Entitlements Toward the Well-Off – Bloomberg

The average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. is now 78.7 years. But in life expectancy, as in many things, averages obscure many details.

Higher-income people have pretty much always lived longer than lower-income people. In the early 1970s, however, the gap started expanding rapidly. In measuring this phenomenon, researchers typically look at education, rather than income, because education is correlated with lifetime income but is not affected by bouts of ill health, which can skew the relationship between current income and health status.

In 1990, 20-year-old white women who had at least a college degree were expected to live to age 81, while those with less than a high-school degree were expected to reach 79, a recent study in Health Affairs found. By 2008, however, that two-year gap had widened to more than 10 years. For 20-year-old white men, the difference grew from five years in 1990 to 13 years in 2008.

Changing Expectations

Other studies show a similar pattern: For people high on the scale of socioeconomic status, life expectancy is rising at a decent clip. For those at the bottom, it is stagnant at best – – and in many cases is actually declining.

A complicating factor in these analyses is that the kind of people who lack, say, a high-school diploma today are different from those who didn’t have one in the past. Still, it is clear that the gap is growing for reasons that go beyond this selection effect.

One of these is smoking, which hasn’t declined as quickly among less-educated people as it has among the highly educated. Other reasons include changes in marriage patterns and social ties, and the economic return that education brings.

“Education exerts its direct beneficial effects on health through the adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress and more effective management of chronic diseases,” the authors of the Health Affairs article write. “However, the indirect effects of education through access to more privileged social position, better-paying jobs and higher income are also profound.”

via Life-Span Gap Skews Entitlements Toward the Well-Off – Bloomberg.

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