Archive for March 18, 2017

Effects of Residency by State and Race on Life Expectancy in USA

March 18, 2017 12 comments

One of the common and peculiar explanations about why average life-expectancy in USA is about 3 years less than most other developed countries goes something like this: “It is because of ‘the Blacks’ who have lower life expectancy than Whites because of genetics”. The person who makes this argument will then, almost always, go on to make another related claim: “Whites in USA have the same life expectancy as Whites in other developed countries”. Well.. it just happens that the second claim is false, while the first one is demonstrably false.

But before we go there, here (below) is a map of average life-expectancy by state in USA. You will immediately notice that many states in the American South have rather low average life-expectancy compared to states on the north-east and west coast of USA. It turns out that average life-expectancy in southern and many mid-western states is below the national average of USA- which itself is about 3 years less than most other developed countries. But it gets worse. Many “far poorer countries” (as measured per-capita income in USD) such as Mexico have average life expectancy figures that are superior to most states in the American South.

But it is the effect of residency by state AND race on average life expectancy that is truly amazing- for some people, at least. You can get the long-form of the data here or the wikipedia version here.

It turns out that Blacks in many coastal states live longer than Whites in many southern states. In eight southern states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi) the average life expectancy for Whites is below 77 years. Curiously, there are six states (Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Oregon) in which average life expectancy for Blacks is over 77 years. Given that over 90% of people with Black ancestry in USA can trace their origins in this country to the pre-1810 era, it is certainly odd that Blacks living in certain states today live upto 8 years longer than their equivalents in some other states.

The state of residence, then, has a large impact on average life-expectancy than race in USA.

But it gets even more interesting. The gap between the numbers for White and Black average life expectancy pales in comparison to that between Hispanics and Whites. Hispanics, you see, appear to live years longer than their White counterparts- even in populous and relatively affluent states such as California, Massachusetts and New York. I should note that this is true in spite of the fact that Hispanics typically tend to be less affluent than Whites. People of Asian ancestry, of course, have the longest life-expectancy of any racial group in USA- but that statistic has a significant competent of higher social class and levels of education.

On another note, the gap between White and Black average life expectancy is highest in mid-western states such as Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is the lowest in states such as Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Nevada. Curiously, the gap between White and Black life expectancy is only moderate in the American South- which is another way of saying that it is bad for both of them in those states. I am sure that many of my readers will have a lot more to say about this post and the data in the reports which it was derived from.

What do you think? Comments?