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Mortality inequality: the good news from a county-level approach

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  • Currie, Janet
  • Schwandt, Hannes

Abstract

In this essay, we ask whether the distributions of life expectancy and mortality have become generally more unequal, as many seem to believe, and we report some good news. Focusing on groups of counties ranked by their poverty rates, we show that gains in life expectancy at birth have actually been relatively equally distributed between rich and poor areas. Analysts who have concluded that inequality in life expectancy is increasing have generally focused on life expectancy at age 40 to 50. This observation suggests that it is important to examine trends in mortality for younger and older ages separately. Turning to an analysis of age-specific mortality rates, we show that among adults age 50 and over, mortality has declined more quickly in richer areas than in poorer ones, resulting in increased inequality in mortality. This finding is consistent with previous research on the subject. However, among children, mortality has been falling more quickly in poorer areas with the result that inequality in mortality has fallen substantially over time. We also show that there have been stunning declines in mortality rates for African Americans between 1990 and 2010, especially for black men. Finally we offer some hypotheses about causes for the results we see, including a discussion of differential smoking patterns by age and socioeconomic status.

Suggested Citation

  • Currie, Janet & Schwandt, Hannes, 2016. "Mortality inequality: the good news from a county-level approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66524, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:66524
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    2. Angus S. Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Mortality, Education, Income, and Inequality among American Cohorts," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 129-170 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chorniy, Anna & Currie, Janet & Sonchak, Lyudmyla, 2018. "Exploding asthma and ADHD caseloads: The role of medicaid managed care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1-15.
    2. Haan, Peter & Kemptner, Daniel & Lüthen, Holger, 2017. "The Rising Longevity Gap by Lifetime Earnings: Distributional Implications for the Pension System," IZA Discussion Papers 11121, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Alan J. Auerbach & Kerwin K. Charles & Courtney C. Coile & William Gale & Dana Goldman & Ronald Lee & Charles M. Lucas & Peter R. Orszag & Louise M. Sheiner & Bryan Tysinger & David N. Weil & Justin W, 2017. "How the Growing Gap in Life Expectancy May Affect Retirement Benefits and Reforms," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan;The Geneva Association, vol. 42(3), pages 475-499, July.
    4. Edward Schlee & V. Kerry Smith, 2016. "The Welfare Cost of Uncertainty in Policy Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 22864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Alexander, Diane & Currie, Janet, 2017. "Is it who you are or where you live? Residential segregation and racial gaps in childhood asthma," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 186-200.
    6. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0618-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Libertad González Luna & Ana Rodríguez-González, 2018. "Changes in inequality in mortality: New evidence for Spain," Economics Working Papers 1616, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Chloe N. East & Sarah Miller & Marianne Page & Laura R. Wherry, 2017. "Multi-generational Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net: Early Life Exposure to Medicaid and the Next Generation’s Health," NBER Working Papers 23810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Libertad González & Ana Rodriguez-Gonzalez, 2018. "Changes in Inequality in Mortality: New Evidence for Spain," Working Papers 1050, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    10. William J. Collins & Michael Q. Moody, 2017. "Racial Differences in American Women's Labor Market Outcomes: A Long-Run View," NBER Working Papers 23397, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General

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