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American Longevity: Past, Present, and Future

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  • Samuel H. Preston

Abstract

How long we live, and how long members of our families and social groups live, is extraordinarily important to us. It's not a subject of daily discussion, but it would be if we were threatened with a return to earlier conditions. Unfortunately, the subject of longevity falls between the cracks of academe and has received far less attention than it warrants. We are all aware, at least dimly, that peole are living longer than they used to. The numbers are impressive: at the turn of the century, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 48 years; it's now 76 years. Since life expectancy during the Stone Age was in the range of 20 to 30 years, it is clear that a majority of the cumulative advances have taken place in the short span of the 20th century. Without the improvements during this century, half of us would not e here: a quarter of the present U.S. population would have been born and died, and another quarter would never have been born because of the pre-reproductive death of a mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. In developing countries, nearly all of the improvements in longevity have occurred in this century. How these gains were achieved has important implications for public policy; how large future gains will be is the single most important area of uncertainty affecting the fiscal viability of our "old age welfare state." These are the two related issues that I focus on in this policy brief.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel H. Preston, 1996. "American Longevity: Past, Present, and Future," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 7, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  • Handle: RePEc:max:cprpbr:007
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    File URL: https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/cpr/publications/cpr_policy_briefs/pb7.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ronald Lee & Shripad Tuljapurkar, "undated". "Death and Taxes: How Longer Life Will Affect Social Security," Working Papers _004, University of California at Berkeley, Demography of Aging.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1992:82:6:816-820_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "The Determinants of Mortality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 97-120, Summer.
    2. David N. Weil, 2015. "A Review of Angus Deaton's The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(1), pages 102-114, March.
    3. Ljungberg, Jonas, 2013. "A Scientific Revolution that Made Life Longer. Schooling and the Decline of Infant Mortality in Europe," Lund Papers in Economic History 127, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    4. Angus Deaton, 2004. "Health in an Age of Globalization," NBER Working Papers 10669, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. E. Somanathan, 2010. "Effects of Information on Environmental Quality in Developing Countries," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(2), pages 275-292, Summer.
    6. David E Bloom & David Canning, 2006. "Global Demography: Fact, Force and Future," RBA Annual Conference Volume,in: Christopher Kent & Anna Park & Daniel Rees (ed.), Demography and Financial Markets Reserve Bank of Australia.
    7. Ellen Meara, 2001. "Why is Health Related to Socioeconomic Status?," NBER Working Papers 8231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Jonathan J Adams, 2017. "Urbanization, Long-Run Growth, and the Demographic Transition," Working Papers 001001, University of Florida, Department of Economics.
    9. Law, Marc T. & Kim, Sukkoo, 2005. "Specialization and Regulation: The Rise of Professionals and the Emergence of Occupational Licensing Regulation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(03), pages 723-756, September.
    10. Weil, David N., 2014. "Health and Economic Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 3, pages 623-682 Elsevier.
    11. David Cutler & Ellen Meara, 2001. "Changes in the Age Distribution of Mortality Over the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 8556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Hammer, Jeffrey & Spears, Dean, 2016. "Village sanitation and child health: Effects and external validity in a randomized field experiment in rural India," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 135-148.
    13. David M. Cutler, 2000. "Walking the Tightrope on Medicare Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 45-56, Spring.
    14. David M. Cutler & Louise Sheiner, 1998. "Demographics and Medical Care Spending: Standard and Non-Standard Effects," NBER Working Papers 6866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Joseph F. Quinn & Timothy Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Patterns of Labor Force Withdrawal," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 371, Boston College Department of Economics.
    16. Balasubramanya, Soumya & Pfaff, Alexander & Bennear, Lori & Tarozzi, Alessandro & Ahmed, Kazi Matin & Schoenfeld, Amy & van Geen, Alexander, 2014. "Evolution of households' responses to the groundwater arsenic crisis in Bangladesh: information on environmental health risks can have increasing behavioral impact over time," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 19(05), pages 631-647, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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