Why the White Middle Class is Dying Faster, Explained in Six Charts

March 31, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


Researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton have released a follow-up to their 2015 study documenting an increase in death rates among middle-aged white Americans. In a new paper exploring potential explanations for the trend, the Princeton University professors describe a long-term pattern of “cumulative disadvantage” among whites aged 45 to 54, which may account for their elevated mortality risk compared to other demographic groups. Case and Deaton attribute a large proportion of the mortality increase to “deaths of despair,” or death by drugs, alcohol, and suicide. According to their analysis, deaths of despair have risen across the country at all levels of urbanization among non-Hispanic whites who have less than a college degree, while other racial groups and those with higher levels of education have not experienced the same increase. Case and Deaton have found that this midlife mortality risk is associated with an overall deterioration in socioeconomic wellbeing, which affects an individual’s physical and mental health, career, and relationships. “The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,” they wrote.

Spark Extra! Learn more about the paper.