Chart of the Day: The Rich Live a Lot Longer Than the Poor

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


This really is the chart of the day. It seems like it’s been making the rounds on about half the blogs I read:

It comes from the Health Inequality Project, and it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog. Still, these findings are even more dramatic than usual. The difference in life expectancy between the poorest and richest is a full 15 years for men and 10 years for women. But this chart, based on HIP’s data, is important too:

In the largest coastal cities, life expectancy is four or five years longer than it is in smaller, Midwestern cities. If you take a look at the map in HIP’s report, there’s a broad swath running diagonally from Texas up through the rust belt that has the lowest life expectancies in the nation. Why? Perhaps because of this:

Much of the variation in life expectancy across areas is explained by differences in health behaviors, such as smoking and exercise. Differences in life expectancy among the poor are not strongly associated with differences in access to health care or levels of income inequality. Instead, the poor live longest in affluent cities with highly educated populations and high levels of local government expenditures, such as New York and San Francisco.

If you’re looking for policy conclusions, I can toss out two off the top of my head. First, effective public health campaigns matter. Reducing smoking and encouraging better eating and exercise can make a big difference. Second, increasing the retirement age is the worst possible way to fix Social Security’s funding problems. It’s already 67 for everyone under the age of 55. This means that among the rich, a two year increase reduces their retirement life by about two years out of 20—roughly 10 percent. But among the poor, it takes two years out of ten—roughly 20 percent. There’s no need to balance the Social Security trust fund on the backs of the poor. We have plenty of better alternatives.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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