Life Expectancy Declines for White High School Dropouts

Monday, September 24, 2012

A host of socioeconomic troubles have combined to shave years off the life expectancy of white high school dropouts, according to a new study.


From 1990 to 2008, white women without a high school diploma lost an average of five years off their life span, from 78 to 73. White men with similar education levels lost an average of three years, from 70 to 67.


Experts from the University of Illinois at Chicago said several factors may have caused the decline: an increase in prescription drug overdoses; higher rates of smoking among women; rising obesity, and growing numbers of people without health insurance.


“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, told The New York Times.


According to a study led by S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago, white men with four years of college live 14.2 years longer than black men who drop out of high school, while white woman with college degrees live 10.3 years longer than black female high school dropouts.


As recently as 1985, the American women ranked 14th in the world in life expectancy, but by 2010 they had dropped to 41st place, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S. (by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)

Differences In Life Expectancy Due To Race And Educational Differences Are Widening, And Many May Not Catch Up (by S. Jay Olshansky et al, Health Affairs) (abstract)

White Women in U.S. Live 10 Years Longer than Black Men (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


Leave a comment