Great Graphic: Longevity is a Class Issue

These Great Graphics, that Barry Bosworth published in the Wall Street Journal were re-posted on The Atlantic by Derek Thompson. The top graph shows a 55-year-old man's longevity in the US, comparing two cohorts, those born in 1920 and those born in 1940, and by their mid-career incomes.  The lower graph does the same for women.

In discussions of inequality, economic variables, like wealth and income tend to dominate. The real implications of that inequality often seem to be obscured.   Debates often seem stuck in the economic realm.

These charts illustrate that rich people do not just have bigger houses, more financial assets and travel more than less well off people.  They also live longer. 

There probably are numerous reasons why wealthy people live longer than poor people.  They have access to better medical services.  They have other people doing the high risk manual labor, construction, farming and mining, example.  They can afford higher quality food and are better educated about healthy life styles and can afford to pursue them. This also means simply giving someone $20k is unlikely to boost their longevity.  If culture matters, so do sub-cultures.  

Rich people do not just live longer than poor people.  There is a widening gap.  Look at the men. The longevity gap between the richest and poorest men born in 1920 was 7 years compared with 10.7 years for those born in 1940 after they reached the age of 55.   One thing that can be said about the men is that both rich and poor men were living longer in absolute terms.  

This cannot be said for women.  The poor 40% of women, by mid-career income, born in 1940, were actually not living as long as the poorest 40% of women born in 1920.   Thompson notes that public policy that calls for raising the retirement age or the age to access Social Security on the grounds that we are living longer is misleading.

Great Graphic: Longevity is a Class Issue Great Graphic:  Longevity is a Class Issue Reviewed by Marc Chandler on May 06, 2014 Rating: 5
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