Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap

“Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap” by Annie Lowrey, The New York Times.

Since the 1980s, “socioeconomic status has become an even more important indicator of life expectancy.” That was the finding of a 2008 report by the Congressional Budget Office. But dollars in a bank account have never added a day to anyone’s life, researchers stress. Instead, those dollars are at work in a thousand daily-life decisions — about jobs, medical care, housing, food and exercise — with a cumulative effect on longevity.

“Why might income have an effect on morbidity or mortality?” said David Kindig, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and an expert in longevity issues. “We have these causal pathways, through better jobs, better health insurance, better choice of behaviors, he added. On top of that, “there’s the stress effects of poverty and low educational status.”

But, “these things are not nearly as clear as they seem, or as clear as epidemiologists seem to think,” said Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton. Further, there is nothing to suggest that, for a given individual, getting a raise in pay or moving between counties would mean outliving her peers.

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