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Here’s How Much Your Life Expectancy Goes Up If You’re Rich

Thomas Galvez/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Thomas Galvez/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Although a lot of progress have been made in affordable health care, medical technology, and education, a latest research shows that there does exist a growing disparity in terms of the life expectancy between high-income and low-income people living in the United States.

The study done by Brookings Institution demonstrates that poorer people fail to get the same benefits of increasingly accessible health-care and education. While the study shows that life expectancy has become increasingly longer across the board in the U.S. for the two different populations sampled, they are those born in 1920 and in 1950 respectively , the rise has not been uniform. As for those at the bottom 10 percent of male income earners in these two populations, life expectancy went up only by 3 percent, but the top 10 percent of earners’ life expectancy rose by a remarkable 28 percent.

For example, a rich man born in 1920 would generally outlive a poor man by six years, an high-income earner born in 1950 would live fourteen years longer than someone with a low income.

From the study, such disparity is largest between men. However it also discovered a gap between rich and poor women at the same time. For women, the gap widened from 4.7 years to 13 years over the same time period.

When having a radio interview with NPR, Gary Burtless, economist and also co-author of the study, said that why such things happened is not exactly clear, but lifestyle should be a possible culprit.

As Burtless said, it was widely believed that more rich Americans intend to do more in systematic exercise, so they were not easily getting obese. At the same time, the smoking rates among affluent Americans are lower. Those differences could attribute to why there was a difference between people’s life expectancy. But there is no confirmatory conclusion that such differences should account for more than about a fifth of the increase in mortality differences between rich and poor people. To Burtless, something else should be responsible for such phenomenon.

While Burtless believed that illegal drug-use might be a factor, he concluded that it was possible that it was caused by the effect of growing income inequality during people’s lives.


Image credit: Thomas Galvez/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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