Enough With the Middle-Age Whites, Already


In a Washington Post column over the weekend, Fareed Zakaria wrote this:

In a well-known paper, economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case found that over the past 15 years, one group — middle-age whites in the United States — constitutes an alarming trend. They are dying in increasing numbers.

I suppose I’m tilting at windmills here, but this misconstrual of the Case/Deaton paper really bugs me. It’s not “middle aged” whites who are dying of drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver disease in vastly greater numbers. The chart on the right is taken directly from data in the Case/Deaton paper, and it shows two groups with outsize increases in mortality: 30-34 year olds and 50-59 year olds. So there are three age cohorts here. Roughly speaking, one cohort was born in the early 50s and shows big problems; another was born in the 60s and shows only moderate problems; and the third was born in the early 70s and once again shows big problems.

These cohorts might change if you examine the data using different age buckets, different diseases, and a different timeframe. Who knows? Regardless, if you’re going to put forward an explanation about why this is happening, it better account for all three age groups. You can’t just pretend the data points only to “middle-age” whites and then spin your theories from that.

Oh, and the paper is by Case and Deaton, not Deaton and Case. Either way, though, I sure wish one of them would step in to correct this.

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.