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Mortality Inequality: The Good News from a County-Level Approach

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  • Currie, Janet

    () (Princeton University)

  • Schwandt, Hannes

    () (University of Zurich)

Abstract

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 show that the differential timing of smoking reductions among the rich and the poor can explain a significant fraction of the current increase in mortality inequality in older cohorts.

Suggested Citation

  • Currie, Janet & Schwandt, Hannes, 2016. "Mortality Inequality: The Good News from a County-Level Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 9903, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9903
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Chorniy & Janet Currie & Lyudmyla Sonchak, 2017. "Exploding Asthma and ADHD Caseloads: The Role of Medicaid Managed Care," NBER Working Papers 23983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. Edward Schlee & V. Kerry Smith, 2016. "The Welfare Cost of Uncertainty in Policy Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 22864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0618-7 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    mortality; inequality; racial differences; smoking;

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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