- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2017

A toxic combination of declining social status, poor health and failed relationships is being blamed for the worrying spike in mortality rates among white Americans in the middle and working classes, according to new data from demographers, in a striking reversal on longtime historic trends.

Princeton University economists Ann Case and Angus Deaton call the phenomenon “Deaths of Despair” that are related to declining economic opportunity coupled with rising levels of drug abuse, obesity, drinking and suicide among the non-college educated whites.

One startling finding from their survey: in 2015, mortality rates for non-Hispanic whites with a high school degree or less was 30 percent higher than blacks (927 vs 703 per 100,000 people). In 1999, rates for non-Hispanic whites of the same group were 30 percent lower than for blacks.

The researchers published their findings on Thursday in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, as a followup to their 2015 study which first documented the increase in mortality.

“This is a story of the collapse of the white working class,” Mr. Deaton, who won a Nobel Prize for economics in 2015 for his work on poverty, told the Associated Press in an interview. “The labor market has very much turned against them.”

A decline in economic and social well-being are contributing factors to the high rates of death among both white men and women aged 45-54 without a college degree, the researchers found. The causes of death stemmed from complications with drug and alcohol use, and suicide.

Instances of death are not confined to a particular location, with high rates in both rural and urban areas.

However, the most important variable is education. “Mortality is rising for those without, and falling for those with, a college degree,” the researchers wrote in the paper’s summary.

In their original 2015 study, the researchers said they were shocked to learn that while mortality rates declined for every other ethnic group in the U.S., they were increasing among non-Hispanic whites.

“Mortality rates have been going down over 100 years or more, and then for all this to suddenly go into reverse, we just thought this must be wrong,” Mr. Deaton told NPR.

Ms. Case added that the recently published work seeks to thread a narrative to explain the factors leading to the increase in deaths. “It’s consistent with the labor market collapsing for people with less than a college degree and then in turn that having effects on the kind of economic and social supports that we usually think people need in order to thrive.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide