Derek Thompson, National Bureau Of Economic Research, Derek discussed on Here and Now
Webcams and networking accessories. More at staples stores or staples dot com Staples. This is here. And now long before the pandemic, The lifespan of Americans lagged behind those in Europe. Now a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research is taking a deeper look at the data and to parse this out. We have with us. Derek Thompson. He's a staff writer at the Atlantic and hey, Derek, Welcome back. Hey, great to be here. Thank you so much. Yeah, great to have you. Well, let's go back to 1990. The average life expectancy in the U. S was pretty much equal to European countries like the UK and Germany and France. 31 years later, the gap has widened. What's happening? Yeah. What interested me so much about this study is that it's not just covid with the U. S. Is doing worse in terms of mortality than much of Europe. It's everything Americans now die earlier than their European counterparts. No matter what age you're looking at. Compared to Europeans, American infants are more likely to die before they turned five. Teens are more likely to die than their European peers before they turn 20. An American adults are more elected, die before they turn 65. So whatever the American mortality penalty is, and it is this big, important mystery. It's critical to point out that it's happening everywhere and it's touching all ages in this country. Okay, This is really alarming. You call it the mortality penalty. Let's break down some of the details. We do know here in the U. S. If you live in a wealthy area, you will probably live longer than someone in a poor area. But researchers found that in Europe, life expectancy was not linked to where you live, and even the wealthiest Europeans are outliving the wealthiest Americans. What does that say about the health care system? More specifically here in the U. S. I think this is a really counterintuitive finding. There's an American view. I think that Europe has more equality. But it's all one big, mediocre muddle as the author of this paper described to me, and there's this sort of American exceptionalist ideal that we're the best outcomes in the world are still happening in America. Well, that's just wrong. White Americans living in the richest 5% of counties in the U. S still die earlier than Europeans in similarly low poverty areas and, of course, lifespans for black Americans are shorter. Still, um In fact, Europeans in poor areas seem to live longer than black or white Americans, even in the richest 10% of counties. So I think it says something very negative about the overall health system of the US or our health habits that even after you account for income and compare the richest people here to the richest people in France and the UK and Germany, they are still living 123, sometimes four years longer than Americans. Okay, I'm keying into a term you just used and that's health habits. We do know Americans do live differently than people in many European countries. What do those life differences Tell us about mortality rates. It's a great question, and it's one that I can't answer conclusively. We know some things to be true. We know that Americans are more likely to die of gun violence, because quite simply, there are so many more guns in America. We know that Americans are more likely to die in traffic accidents, not because we have a higher fatality rate per mile driven. But because we drive more miles, so Americans die in cars more because we are in cars more so there are some really easy explanations that you can pull out of the data. But others more complicated when it comes to eating habits, For example, you have, like a century of diet scientists trying to figure out exactly what is causing the difference in obesity between countries, but that's a little bit harder to pinpoint in something like guns or traffic deaths. So in some cases, we have easy answers. But in other cases, if you're teasing apart the health habits of Americans and Europeans, it is a little bit more of a model. You mentioned the the disparities and, uh, when it comes to race, But researchers noted that life expectancy for black Americans surged over the last 30 years, closing the gap between black and white Americans by almost half What is behind that? No question. This is the silver lining of the study that the black white longevity gap fell by about 50% since 1990 from seven years to 3.6 years. 3.6 years is still a gap and still very important gap that we should be clear about. But I think what happened here is that you got better we had We saw the Medicaid expansion in the 19 nineties that covered more pregnant women covered more Children improved. I think black Americans access to medical treatments. You also saw the decline in air pollution. This might be a surprise system listeners. But black Americans have been more likely than white Americans to live in more polluted areas. This is a one of several factors that sometimes called environmental racism. Well. Fortunately for everybody, that kind of environmental racism has gone down in the last 30 years. Air pollution has declined in the U. S by 70% since the 19 seventies. So some things are absolutely getting better here, and they are helping to create more equality between ethnicity, ethnicities in the US, But still we do have this black white gap. And very clearly we also have this. US versus Europe Gap. There's so many questions here, Derek, but at least it gives us a grounding for more research. That's.