Poor Whites Obey Republican Party and Die Sooner

Seriously, this is a startling statistic — American white people without a high school diploma have lost four years of life expectancy since 1990. Four years is a lot.

And lesser-educated white women got smacked worse — they lost five years of life expectancy, while the men lost only three.

Interestingly, the life expectancy of blacks and Hispanics without high school diplomas increased in the same time period; see the charts. What appears to be happening is that the life expectancy of less-educated whites is leveling off to be the same as less-educated African Americans. It seems whiteness alone is not the built-in advantage it used to be.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

Another factor to consider is that the percentage of Americans without a high school diploma is a lot smaller now than it was in 1990. Americans without a high school diploma made up 22 percent of the population in 1990 and are now 12 percent. The whites remaining in the no-diploma pool may be those who are just plain not coping with life in the 21st century very well, for one reason or another. I’d be interested to know if this group is disproportionately living in rural rather than urban areas; the article doesn’t say. And whatever is slamming the less-educated whites is not affecting less-educated nonwhite Hispanics.

5 thoughts on “Poor Whites Obey Republican Party and Die Sooner

  1. If the white folks have jobs at all, they’re always on the brink of losing them – both, or all three of them.
    Most of those jobs don’t have benefits.
    If they don’t, and buy health care, that cost has escalated dramatically.
    If they had any savings, they’re gone/Pensions – sold out from under them.
    If they had a home, the value has gone down in the past 4 years.
    If they have children, the cost of higher education has skyrocketed.

    On top of that, hating on “The Other” people is very stressful.
    They drink more.
    Take take drugs – legal and illegal.

    All of that stress, the lack of cheap, quality health care, and little time to go to doctors if they wanted to, and little or no hope for the future, adds up to shorter lifespans.

    Of course, the fact that they voted against their best interests, causing some, if not most of those problems, will never occur to them.
    And many of them will go out on November 6th, and vote the straight Republican ticket – possibly shortening the lifespans of the rest of us, as well.

  2. AARGHHH! I just lost a very detailed comment and I don’t have the energy or time to rewrite it. Maybe it’s just as well, it was kind of long. So in short…

    My wife is a CNM, Certified Nurse Midwife. Her service delivers about half the babies in a neighboring county. Her observation is that her latina patients generally have a healthy diet, very good dentition and strict compliance with medical advice as compared with the balance of her patients. They virtually never skip appointments or continue to smoke or drink excessively during pregnancy.

    I noticed a similar difference when we were developing a pilot program for agricultural workers who had traumatic injuries received at work. Nearly all of them had spinal cord injuries. The biggest difference was that their diet was much healthier. They shopped almost exclusively in the produce aisle and they all knew how to cook healthy meals. They drank juice and milk instead of soda. They knew how to keep themselves healthy and cared about their health. They followed medical advice. That can make a huge difference in general health, level of function and lifespan of a person with SCI.

    I know this is only an observation, but if these qualities are general, it really does appear that lifestyle, a regard for good health and diet, might contribute to the relatively longer life expectancy for hispanics. Of course they are experiencing a rise in type II Diabetes, possibly due to adopting a more American diet.

    • goatherd — you’re describing a higher level of basic functionality. I postulate the under-educated whites with shrinking life expectancy are dysfunctional in many areas of their lives beside diet and health care. And if I had to guess, I’d say a lack of community is part of the problem.

  3. Yes, I admit I had some definite tunnel vision in this case. When people are “dysfunctional in many areas of their lives” you can imagine how that complicates the provision of quality healthcare, but there is definitely more to the story. And I think it would be interesting to see the comparison of rural and urban areas.

    It’s just when I think of some of the lives of some of my clients I wonder how they survived at all. I think a lot of people would be surprised just how dysfunctional people can be.

    Anyway, this seems like one more example of how our society seems to be fragmenting. I guess for poor people the “skin in the game” will be the last few years of their lives. That’s a shame.

    Now I have to get back to work.

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