Monday, April 11, 2016

The Geography of Early Death in America

It's not really news that in the U.S. rich people live longer than poor people. The richest 1% of men live 15 years longer than the poorest 1%; for women the difference is ten years. There are some questions about causality here, since bad health is one reason some people are poor, but even if you try to account for stuff like that the rich still live years longer.

The latest wrinkle is a detailed study of longevity in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Geography does not seem to have much impact on how long the rich live, but there are big differences for the poor. Southern California seems like a good place to be poor, which made me think of the weather, but on the other hand Honolulu seems to be a bad one. Except for Las Vegas and Honolulu, the cities that show up on the short lives list have a lot in common: fading industrial towns where a lot of people are marking time. I'm going to stereotype Las Vegas by saying that lives there are shortened by alcohol, drugs, and foolishness. Which leads me to think that for the other places the biggest difference is hope. To look around and think that the best days of everything you see are past, to worry that everything is trending downward, to watch the best young people leave and the worst sink into the mire, seems to take five years off your life.

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