Brother, can you spare a few years?
November 9, 2005 7:33 PM   Subscribe

What's the life expectancy difference in North America between rich and poor?

I've looked for, but not found, a graph of the life expectancy in N.A. (or just the U.S.) for income brackets...from those below the 'poverty line' to the richest citizens.

I think I've noticed that rich Hollywood actors tend to live an inordinately long time, but I'd like to have some sort of data to back that up.
posted by Kickstart70 to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
See here.
posted by duck at 7:44 PM on November 9, 2005

Response by poster: That helps, but doesn't quite show it as clearly as it needs to be, nor shows more than the difference between the richest and the poorest. I'd like to see more income brackets.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2005

I assumed you would use the article as a starting point for research. Using the references in the article, I found this:

The Increasing Disparity in Mortality between Socioeconomic Groups in the United States, 1960 and 1986
Gregory Pappas, Susan Queen, Wilbur Hadden, and Gail Fisher
N Engl J Med. 1993 Jul 8;329(2):126-7.

According to Table 2, these are age-adjusted deaths per 1000 by race and sex:

Income WM WW BM BW
LT 9k 16.0 6.5 19.5 7.6
9k-14.999K 10.2 3.4 10.8 4.5
15K-18.999K 5.7 3.3 9.8 3.7
19K-24.999 4.6 3.0 4.7 2.8
GT 25K 2.4 1.6 3.6 2.3

On preview: Nothing I do lines up the numbers in this table. Paste into a word processor and set the font to courier.
posted by duck at 8:39 PM on November 9, 2005

Oh, and that's for 1986.
posted by duck at 8:41 PM on November 9, 2005

The keyword you probably want to search with is income NEAR cohort. This is an ongoing debate.

In 2002 the British Medical Journal threw cold water on the whole idea, but as of 2005 JAMA takes it seriously, and overall evidence suggests a correlation of some sort, even if it isn't causative. (For example, life expectancy may be better related to urban living, so more-rural nations have poorer life expectancy overall. Urban living may then be connected closely with higher incomes.)

If you want numbers, there are studies done for e.g. Social Security that touch on this, for predictive budgetary needs. I'd start with the BMJ article, though, and work from there.
posted by dhartung at 8:52 PM on November 9, 2005

Note that there are two seperate questions in the link above:

1. What is the relationship between an individuals income and that individual's life expectancy.

2. What is the relationship between life expectancy in a population and income inequality in that population.

The answers to these questions need not vary together. I assumed that what was requested here was the answer to the first question. The BMJ article deals with the second.
posted by duck at 8:58 PM on November 9, 2005

Best answer: There are at least two major problems with measuring the impact of income levels on life expectancy:

* Death certificates have demographic and medical characteristics such as age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, marital status, educational attainment, injury at work, State of residence, and cause of death, but not income.

* It is not clear how to classify someone who (for example) was born into poverty, had income in the upper ten percentile between ages 20 and 50, and then became poor again for the last twenty years of life. (In other words, "rich" and "poor" are not almost-always-permanent, easily measurable conditions like those on death certificates. ) "... on average 60 percent of all American adults will experience at least one year of living below the poverty line, whereas one third will experience dire poverty."

There are many studies comparing life expectancy by country, and how average GDP affects life expectancy (not surprisingly, increasing income is strongly correlated with increasing life expectancy).

You might want to take a look at this UK paper of August 2002, which cites a variety of U.S. studies. I found it by searching on "Panel Study of Income Dynamics", which appears to be a primary U.S. data source for answering questions like this.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:42 PM on November 9, 2005

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