Study: Income Inequality Lowers Life Expectancy

Research suggests a correlation between regional income inequality and poorer health. Several statistical and sociological causes may come into play.
April 10, 2015, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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According to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Wisconsin, United States counties with higher income inequality often also suffer lower life expectancy. In the context of a wider look into geographical health risk factors, "[in] addition to the suspects you might expect — a high smoking rate, a lot of violent crime — the researchers found that people in unequal communities were more likely to die before the age of 75 than people in more equal communities, even if the average incomes were the same."

The article includes several attempts to explain this trend:

  • A larger middle class will have the resources to steer clear of the most dire health threats. "That means that having fewer very poor people in a community will improve average health more than having fewer very rich people will diminish it."
  • A wide gulf between haves and have-nots might lessen political pressure for social spending. Effectively, "places where wealthy residents can essentially buy their way out of social services may have less cohesion and investment in things like education and public health that we know affect life span."
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Published on Monday, March 30, 2015 in New York Times
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