Mortality Inequality: The Good News from a County-Level Approach
Analysts who have concluded that inequality in life expectancy is increasing have generally focused on life expectancy at age 40 to 50. However, we show that among infants, children, and young adults, mortality has been falling more quickly in poorer areas with the result that inequality in mortality has fallen substantially over time. This is an important result given the growing literature showing that good health in childhood predicts better health in adulthood and suggests that today’s children are likely to face considerably less inequality in mortality as they age than current adults.
We also show that there have been stunning declines in mortality rates for African-Americans between 1990 and 2010, especially for black men. The fact that inequality in mortality has been moving in opposite directions for the young and the old, as well as for some segments of the African-American and non-African-American populations argues against a single driver of trends in mortality inequality, such as rising income inequality. Rather, there are likely to be multiple specific causes affecting different segments of the population.
We would like to thank Anne Case, Angus Deaton, Pascaline Dupas, Ilyana Kuziemko, Ronald Lee, Kenneth Wachter, Amelie Wuppermann as well as seminar participants at Princeton University, University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, Fundacio Getulio Vargas Sao Paulo, University of Bonn, University of Munich, University of Bergen, Berkeley, and the Chicago Fed as well as the editors of the Journal of Economic Perspectives for helpful comments. Financial support from the Princeton Center for Translational Research on Aging (2P30AG024928) is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Janet Currie & Hannes Schwandt, 2016. "Mortality Inequality: The Good News from a County-Level Approach," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol 30(2), pages 29-52. citation courtesy of