Poverty

Death Rates Rise for Young White Americans Too

It's not just midlife whites - mortality rates for whites ages 25 to 34 are also increasing

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Welch1946
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Last fall, when I read the alarming study by the Princeton researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton that found that the mortality rate for midlife white non-Hispanic whites is rising, my thoughts turned immediately to McDowell County, West Virginia. Why? Because my family hails from that county, which has the distinction being the jurisdiction with the lowest male life expectancy in the United States. Female life expectancy is only the second lowest in the country, at 73 years; the lowest is found in nearby Perry County, Kentucky, where women can expect lives lasting on average just 72.7 years. Men in McDowell County live an average of 63.9 years, compared to a national average of 76.3. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the average American male's lifespan is 81.7 years—nearly 18 years more than McDowell's men.

During the post–World War II coal boom, the population of McDowell County swelled to nearly 100,000 by 1950. (My father's family decamped from coal country to dairy farming in Virginia at about the same time.) The county's population, which is about 90 percent white, has since dropped to just over 20,000 today. Fewer than 6 percent of residents have a college degrees, and the annual per capita income is $14,000. By comparison, some 30 percent of Americans over age 25 have bachelor's degrees or above, and per capita annual income stands at $28,000.

One more pertinent fact: McDowell County is where the first food stamps were distributed in 1961. On the occasion the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported: "Mr. and Mrs. Alderson Muncy of Paynesville, West Virginia, were the first food stamp recipients on May 29, 1961. They purchased $95 in food stamps for their 15-person household. In the first food stamp transaction, they bought a can of pork and beans at Henderson's Supermarket."

U.S. mortality rates have been steadily declining and life expectancies increasing for well more than a century. So the discovery that white midlife mortality rates in the U.S. have been rising since the beginning of the 21st century is startling. (Rising mortality rates do translate into lower life expectancy, but not in a linear way.)

Case and Deaton found that the death rates for middle-aged white Americans, ages 45 to 54, has been rising since 1999. (Deaton is the 2015 Nobel Economics Laureate.) The rise in white midlife death rates is found entirely among those Americans with a high school degree or less. The 2013 mortality rates for midlife whites with high school degree or less is 736 per 100,000; for those with some college education it is 288 per 100,000; for whites with a B.A. or higher their death rate stands at 178 per 100,000. In other words, whites who have only a high school degree or less are four times more likely to die between ages 45 and 54 than are college-educated whites. For comparison, the overall death rate for midlife black non-Hispanics is 582 per 100,000; for Hispanics, it is 270 per 100,000.

Even more disturbing, the phenomenon of rising white mortality rates is not confined to midlife. According to Robert Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics, the mortality rate for the cohort of non-Hispanic white Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 has risen from 90 per 100,000 in 2000 to 115 per 100,000 in 2014. This is a reversal of the trend for that group, which saw its mortality rate fall from 118 per 100,000 in 1980 to 90 per 100,000 in 2000. The mortality rate for the in-between cohort spanning the ages of 35 to 44 dropped from 197 per 100,000 in 1980 to 181 per 100,000 in 2000 and has been essentially flat since then.

AldersonMuncy
ChicagoTribuneArchives

The CDC has not disaggregated the mortality trends in these younger white cohorts by educational attainment yet, so it is not known if they will mirror those uncovered by Case and Deaton. "I know better than to speculate in advance of the data," says Case. She and her colleagues plan to do an analysis of the mortality data from the younger cohorts and publish their findings.

As it happens, McDowell County is also the jurisdiction in the U.S. with the highest overall mortality rate, except for two counties in South Dakota that lie entirely within Indian reservations (which is in itself a sad and appalling situation). McDowell County's mortality rate is 861 per 100,000 persons. The lowest mortality rate in the country is found in Pitkin County, Colorado, where it stands at 118 per 100,000. Nearly 57 percent of Pitkin County residents have bachelor's degrees or above, and per capita income there is just shy of $52,000 per year. The county seat of Pitkin is Aspen.

Case and Deaton report that nearly two-thirds of the increase in the white midlife death rate is the result of drug overdosing. Most of the rest is attributed to increases in suicide and in chronic liver diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis. The death rates in 2013 for midlife whites with a high school education or less, from drug poisoning, suicide, and cirrhosis, is 58, 39, and 39 per 100,000, respectively. The comparable rates for college-educated whites are 8, 16, and 7 per 100,000, respectively.

What is going on?

CDC data show that mortality rates have consistently been higher the further one gets from central metropolitan areas, and that the gap between urban and rural white mortality rates has been widening since 2000. As Case and Deaton found, mortality is increasing chiefly among white midlife Americans without college degrees. Seventy-eight percent of the 465 counties in which 20 percent or more of the working-age population (adults ages 25 to 64) lacks a high school diploma or equivalent are located in non-metro areas. The unemployment rate for people without a high school degree is three times higher than for those with a college degree. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the "share of working-age adults with at least a 4-year college degree was 14 percentage points higher in urban areas than in rural areas (32 percent versus 18 percent)."

"Something profound is going on," says Case. Noting that her study with Deaton also reported rising reports of ill health, both mental and physical, she adds, "We need to focus on what is causing people so much distress."

Oregon State University economist Bruce Weber has pointed out that "persistent poverty is largely a rural phenomenon." In fact, 95 percent of the nearly 400 counties that have experienced persistent poverty over the past half century—those that have sustained poverty rates higher than 20 percent—are rural. Some researchers suggest that government policies, such as distributing employment vouchers to firms or providing one-time lump-sum grants to the local self-employed, new businesses, or small proprietors, might be able to forestall decline and help to revive fading rural communities.

Others counter that if the resources that once sustained a place are no longer valuable, we shouldn't try to keep people and businesses there. In such instances, economists David Kraybill of Ohio State University and Maureen Kilkenny of Iowa State University observe, "The provision of subsidies to induce people to stay in that place delays the inevitable. At worst, such subsidies effectively retain the kinds of people who are the least able to adjust, ultimately, to market forces." They add, "It does no good to retain (or attract) people in places that are too costly for most businesses, which cannot sustain economic activity. That turns the place into a poverty trap."

The history of food stamps in McDowell County may provide one clue as to why the death rates for poor rural whites is rising. Perhaps dependence on the paltry alms doled out by the welfare state encourages rural recipients to stay out in the boondocks where they have few opportunities for improving their lives. Not being as cautious about speculation as Case, I'll guess that lots of poor rural whites have come to believe that the modern world is leaving them behind and are seeking solace in mind-numbing substances and suicide. Bribing people to stay poor can kill them.

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  1. It’s their own fault because they’re lazy, uneducated, waste food stamps on booze and drugs, have a toxic culture obsessed with guns, have silly names like Jim Bob, speak terrible English, and they’ve been voting for Republicans for the last fifty years!

    Okay now let’s try that again but change some words:

    It’s their own fault because they’re lazy, uneducated, waste food stamps on booze and drugs, have a toxic culture obsessed with guns, have silly names like Ja’Quan, speak terrible English, and they’ve been voting for Democrats for the last fifty years!

    This is why liberals are the same as the Southern racists. There are millions more poor white people than poor blacks or Hispanics. They just live far away from the big cities, and deserve their fates because they’re part of the white supremacist patriarchy. They don’t deserve our sympathy…

    1. I recommend reading “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” by Thomas Sowell

    2. The average welfare recipient is a white single mother.

    3. Apparently you missed our little discussion of racism in the south.

    4. I think in modern America most people do not deserve sympathy unless they are dealing with a real disability of some sort. They most certainly do not deserve the fruits of other people’s labor.

      Democrats are worse than Southern racists; far, far worse. Democrats have done more to destroy the black family, jobs for black people, and black culture than any redneck who doesn’t want his daughter to marry a black man.

      But a quick look at history shows you the full on racists have always been the Democrats, while the people who may say not politically correct things about other races but generally will stand up for their rights have been Republicans.

    5. Note to foreign readers: observe that the writer believes it when socialists assure him that they are free-market liberals, and anti-choice prohibitionists nod approvingly.

      1. Do you incoherently rave about everything being related to abortion in your daily life constantly?

  2. Just because someone dies from drugs doesn’t mean they are an ‘addict’. It’s heartening to see that the truth about the suicide epidemic is starting to come out. Only then can there be hope it will be addressed effectively. (Hint: ‘drug treatment’ is not the answer.)

    1. It’s heartening to see that the truth about the suicide epidemic is starting to come out. Only then can there be hope it will be addressed effectively.

      What business is it of government to “address” suicide? How exactly do you want government to interfere in people’s lives to “address” suicide?

      1. I’m a libertarian. I want the government to STOP trying to ‘help’. OK now defend their plan to spend half a billion on ‘mental illness’ supported by both republicans and democrats or even better declare ignorance:

    2. Weedless Appalachian hillbillies inhale gasoline. There is even a movie about it… Small wonder they drop like flies. Prohibition enforcement personel doubtless write this off as deliberate suicide, the way they do when government-denatured alcohol leaves people who drink it blind or dead. There’s a reason we refer to these folks as “anti-choice”…

  3. Cost is probably one reason. Thanks to a government enforced legal monopoly, doctors enjoy an absolute legally enforceable monopoly over access to medical drugs. Which they turn to their own gain like any monopolist does.

    The cost of health care without prescription laws would be considerably “less” than what it is today, especially as it is likely that we’d have health care software that would do better at diagnosis than many doctors do. Of course the medical profession would have a screaming fit if we deprived them of their ability to treat their patients like children incapable of making decisions for themselves.

    This is also why we should never vote for any member of the medical profession for any elective office as this just encourages them to support legislation that takes away your rights to taking care of your health and puts it in their hands.

    1. Well that might be a bit hasty. Ron and Rand Paul are both doctors.

      1. Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter were both engineers… it is a sad reflection on that profession!

    2. Control, as a monopoly or public utility, provision of medical services. The doctors’ labor union, the AMA, should be treated like any other looter group.

      1. The medical mafia and their government enforcers in the FDA are the greatest public health threats in America.

        Vote Woodchopper 2016
        If not now, when?

  4. The War on Young White Americans has begun!

    Alert all SJW !!!

  5. Case and Deaton report that nearly two-thirds of the increase in the white midlife death rate is the result of drug overdosing. Most of the rest is attributed to increases in suicide and in chronic liver diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis. The death rates in 2013 for midlife whites with a high school education or less, from drug poisoning, suicide, and cirrhosis, is 58, 39, and 39 per 100,000, respectively. The comparable rates for college-educated whites are 8, 16, and 7 per 100,000, respectively.

    What is going on?

    A PTSD epidemic. Legal cannabis would go a long way towards fixing some of the problem.

    1. +1 common sense

    2. I was going to post something along these lines.

      How much of the increase in death rate is due to the military and the issues such as suicide and PTSD that soldiers face when they come home?

      It seems to me that most of our military comes from this exact demographic; poor white southerners.

    3. Heaven forfend! If meddlers were to go about fixing problems, where would professional politicians find enough hobgoblins to frighten voters into wanting to be led to safety by DemoGOP looters?

  6. Death rates rise.

    Still one to a customer, isn’t it?

  7. The first thing that popped in my head upon reading the title was the drug and alcohol use in countries where one has little chance of improving their lot; i.e. the USSR.

    1. Same here.

  8. I love that Trump has been able to convince angry white men that all there problems are because of Muslims and african americans. The minorities are responsible for: Charging americans highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world, Ruining the economy and home prices, sending american jobs out of the country, lowering your standard of living, refusing to pay you a decent wage, Cutting health care benefits, student loan debt and so on. If we could just get rid of those minorities our lives would be perfect!

    1. Is angry white man the new angry black man?

      Either way, indirectly minorities are responsible as a group (if that is such a thing) as they do tend to vote for increased government intervention in all aspects of life, which does all those bad things you listed.

      It is not entirely irrational for whites or any other group who as a whole are successful and want to be left alone to not want an increase in such voting demographics.

      1. When you import people you import their politics with them.

    2. Explain about Trump making white people fear African-americans.

      Trump in fact attracts African-Americans because of his views on trade and immigration.

      Muslims and Mexicans. That’s who Trump demonizes.

    3. We didnt say that white people’s lives would be perfect without minorities but they would be much better. Blacks support affirmative action, disparate impact, banning of iq tests, loosening of lending standards, diversity non white initiatives, taxes on the productive, violent student activism, identity politics, the victims revolution in the academy, white racial scapegoating and much else besides.

    4. Can’t you Dems read? Dilbert and Doonesbury have taken over Trump-bashing. Since Trump is the only non-machine Republican with any shot at being nominated by those pigs, and the only one who has dared to confess that he likes libertarians. Mother Jones, Workers World and all Democratic Party publications are also good sources for pointing at Trump and shrieking to drown out word of the Libertarian Party. We’re what they fear, and they are thankful to Nixon for changing the IRS code to subsidize entrenched looter parties and their fake competition. This article is about life expectancy in the Appalachians.

    5. No one ever said that shit. Other than you. Do you spend most of your time building retarded straw men like this? Or are you merely retarded yourself?

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  10. The silent holocaust is real.

    As soon as I heard about the increase in mortality among middle-aged, I knew the other shoe was going to drop. Poor and uneducated are the ones dying only because they have the least resources to survive, and I would conjecture that Zerzetsung is more effective in rural areas. Why the deep state’s targets appear only to be whites, I don’t know, but it probably has a complex social basis. Caucasions probably respond more effectively to Zerzetsung. All we can do is guess at this point.

    1. This guy seems to explain it pretty well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJVI9P3IHcM

  11. Two words: Disparate Impact. So it seems that we are finally getting to the bottom of the significance of the civil rights movement. The purpose of the civil rights movement and the doctrine of disparate impact is to undermine the idea of private property and the legal concepts of consent and consideration. It is not as simple as saying that women and minorities were “denied” a position on the other end someone has to offer it ? at one time private property, liberty of contract and freedom of association were upheld to be sacrosanct principles. There are two ways of organizing society ? status or contract as Sir Henry Maine stated in his book on principles on ancient law. In our disparate impact society any legal entity that does anything the civil rights leaders dont like (which cannot be defined ahead of time) is subject to legal extortion. Highly paid experts who produce nothing of value spend their lives trying to avoid and rationalize this extortion. Maybe some of the white working class should be retrained as disparate impact specialists in our new multicultural utopia.

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  13. Thoughtful article. A 1980s study showed coal-fired generation leading to 45000 excess deaths annually, and looters ignored it in efforts to ban nuclear power. But there is also a correlation between per-capita energy consumption and life expectancy, and another between socialist governments and life expectancy. Both are similar in kind, if not degree, to the correlation between old age and death. Showing these energy and socialism graphs to American socialists in the eighties elicited bleats to the effect that “correlaaaaation is not causaaaaality!” Still, correlation is what makes “all men are mortal” a fact of reality.

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