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Pundits continue to push the white-men-are-dying story, even though the real pattern is occurring among women.

From the New York Times book review:

Over the last century, Americans’ life expectancy at birth has risen from 49 to 77. Yet in recent years, that rise has faltered. Among white people age 45-54 — or a time many view as the prime of life — deaths have risen. Especially vulnerable are white men without a four-year bachelor’s degree. Curiously, midlife deaths have not climbed in other rich countries, nor, for the most part, have they risen for American Hispanics or blacks.

And, now, the data:

See here for a link to lots more graphs.

If you want to talk about trends in death rates for middle-aged whites, it’s women, not men, whose death rates have been going up. But pundits just loooove talking about the problems of white men.

That said, the absolute death rate remains higher among men than women:

And I haven’t looked at the data from the past few years. So the story is complicated. Still, I think the whole blue-collar blues thing is overplayed.

From the New Yorker:

As Case and Deaton recount in their new book, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism” (Princeton), they dug deeper into national vital statistics and compared rates of suicide with those of other causes of mortality. “To our astonishment, it was not only suicide that was rising among middle-aged whites; it was all deaths,” they write. . . . working-age white men and women without college degrees were dying from suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related liver disease at such rates that, for three consecutive years, life expectancy for the U.S. population as a whole had fallen. . . .

Case and Deaton argue that the problem arises from the cumulative effect of a long economic stagnation and the way we as a nation have dealt with it. For the first few decades after the Second World War, per-capita U.S. economic growth averaged between two and three per cent a year. In the nineties, however, it dipped below two per cent. In the early two-thousands, it was less than one per cent. This past decade, it remained below 1.5 per cent.

Though their earnings still lag behind those of the white working class, life for this generation of people of color is better than it was for the last. Not so for whites without a college education. Among the men, median wages have not only flattened; they have declined since 1979. . . .

Again with the men! But, again, at least at the time when Case and Deaton published their influential paper, the death rates for middle-aged white men was declining in this country. It was only the women whose death rates were still increasing.

But this doesn’t fit the decline-of-the-white-male story, so nobody talks about it.

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