Income Inequality Linked to Lifespan in the U.S.

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Deprivation in areas including housing, employment, and education indicates poverty. Now a study co-authored by two MIT researchers has shown, in unprecedented geographic detail, another stark reality: Poor people live shorter lives, too.
More precisely, the study shows that in the U.S., the richest 1 percent of men lives 14.6 years longer on average than the poorest 1 percent of men, while among women in those wealth percentiles, the difference is 10.1 years on average.
‘The average lifespan varies considerably by the region in the U.S., the size and growth of the income gap.’
This eye-opening gap is also growing rapidly: Over roughly the last 15 years, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women who are among the top 5 percent of income earners in America, but by just 0.32 and 0.04 years for men and women in the bottom 5 percent of the income tables.
“When we think about income inequality in the United States, we think that low-income Americans can’t afford to purchase the same homes, live in the same neighborhoods, and buy the same goods and services as higher-income Americans,” says Michael Stepner, a PhD candidate in MIT’s Department of Economics. “But the fact that they can on average expect to have 10 or 15 fewer years of life really demonstrates the level of inequality we’ve had in the United States.”
In addition to reporting the size and growth of the income gap, the study finds that the average lifespan varies considerably by region in the U.S. (by as much as 4.5 years), but that the sources of that regional variation are subtle, and, like the aggregate national gap, subject to further investigation.
“The patterns are not exactly what you might expect,” says Abraham, noting that regional variation in longevity does not seem strongly correlated with factors such as access to health care, environmental issues, income inequality, or the job market.
“We don’t find those to be as highly correlated with differences in longevity as we find measures of health behavior, such as smoking rates or obesity rates” [to be correlated with lifespan], Abraham observes.
Source: Eurekalert

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