Tags: death rate | economy | white | middle-aged

Study: Death Rates of Middle-Aged Whites Rising as Economy Sputters?

Study: Death Rates of Middle-Aged Whites Rising as Economy Sputters?
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By    |   Tuesday, 03 November 2015 04:38 PM

A significant increase in the death rates of white, middle-aged Americans without a college education may be partly blamed on economic conditions, according to a new study.

White men and women ages 45-54 saw their mortality rate increase by a half-percent per year from 1999 to 2013, reversing years of improvements. Suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse were the main causes, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unlike other racial and ethnic groups that have suffered from economic factors, middle-aged whites are seeing a reversal of decades of comparable success, writes Dan Mitchell on the Fortune website.

“Disruptions caused by the outsourcing of jobs overseas, falling representation by labor unions, stagnant wages, and falling demand for unskilled and semi-skilled labor might be taking their toll on their physical and psychological well being,” Mitchell writes.

Since the last recession ended in 2009, total working hours in industries including manufacturing and construction haven’t recovered to their pre-crisis levels, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Per capita income and household wealth have climbed, but those gains haven’t been shared with lesser-educated groups who have no savings.

“The unemployment rate in 2014 for white Americans who didn’t graduate from high school was 7.8 percent. For those with a bachelor’s degree, it was 3.3 percent,” Mitchell writes. “While that first number is considerably better than it was for blacks (an unemployment rate of 17.2 percent for those with no high-school diploma), the gap between those groups is closing.”

Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in Economics, and his economics-professor wife, Anne Case, published the study. Both are professors at Princeton University.

"Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible," they write. "After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents."

Determining how much of a role the economy plays in the higher death rates needs further study, they said.

Professors Deaton and Case stumbled on their finding by accident, according to the New York Times, after looking at national data on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their health.

Deaton was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate (he found out that the opposite is true). Case was interested in chronic pain because she has suffered for 12 years from untreatable lower back pain.

“They concluded that taken together, suicides, drugs and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths,” according to the NYT. “The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.”

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A significant increase in the death rates of white, middle-aged Americans without a college education may be partly blamed on economic conditions, according to a new study.
death rate, economy, white, middle-aged
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2015-38-03
Tuesday, 03 November 2015 04:38 PM
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