Social inequality means poor people die earlier in the USA

This video from the USA is called Racial and Ethnic Differences in Child Well-Being.

By Jerry White:

Social inequality leads to gap in US life expectancy

26 March 2008

A series of recent reports highlights the magnitude of social distress confronting tens of millions of ordinary working people in the United States as the impact of the economic downturn and growing gap between the super-rich and the rest of the population hits home.

Perhaps the sharpest example of the class divide that permeates American society is a report by researchers at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which found “large and growing” disparities in life expectancy that coincide with the growth of social inequality over the last two decades.

The New York Times cited a report based on earlier findings by an HHS demographer and a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which found “widening socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy” at birth and at every age level.

On average, US life expectancy rose by three years (from 73.7 to 76.7) between 1980 and 2000, but the largest gains were made by the most affluent layers of the population, leading to a growing gap in life expectancy between the lower and higher income groups.

Dr. Gopal Singh and Professor Mohammed Siahpush measured social and economic conditions in every US county by examining 2000 census data on education, income, poverty, housing and other factors.

The report said in 1980-1982, people in the most affluent group could expect to live 2.8 years longer than those in the poorest (75.8 versus 73 years). By 1998-2000, the difference in life expectancy had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 versus 74.7), and it continues to grow, Dr. Singh said.

“Life expectancy was higher for the most affluent in 1980 than for the most deprived group in 2000,” he said. “If you look at the extremes in 2000,” Dr. Singh added, “men in the most deprived counties had 10 years’ shorter life expectancy than women in the most affluent counties (71.5 versus 81.3 years).”

The Times said while that while researchers differ over what causes the disparity, many suggest it includes the lack of health insurance among lower-income people, which makes them less likely to receive checkups, screenings, diagnostic tests, prescription drugs and other types of care. It is estimated that some 47 million Americans lack health care coverage.

In addition, higher income and more educated people have greater access to new medical advances to fight cancer and heart disease, while lower-income people continue to smoke at a disproportionately higher level, live in less safe neighborhoods, have less access to healthy foods and are subjected to increased levels of stress. A recent study by the US Department of Veteran Affairs also found that racial discrimination led to “less aggressive medical care” for minorities.

Nancy Krieger, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, has found that trends in life expectancy have paralleled the decrease or increase in social inequality over the last four decades. Krieger, who investigated the rate of premature mortality—dying before the age of 65—and infant death from 1960 to 2002, told the Times that inequities shrank between 1966 and 1980, but then widened over the next 20 years.

“The recent trend of growing disparities in health status is not inevitable,” she said. “From 1966 to 1980, socioeconomic disparities declined in tandem with a decline in mortality rates.” She said the creation of Medicaid and Medicare—the two major federal programs for the poor and elderly—along with health centers, the social programs under President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had likely contributed to narrowing the earlier inequalities in health.

The dismantling of these programs—by both Republican and Democratic administrations—over the last three decades, and the radical redistribution of wealth to the top that has resulted, has produced a catastrophe for masses of people, including cutting their years of life.

This week, as more than 3,600 workers marked the end of their first month on strike against the wage-cutting demands of auto parts supplier American Axle & Manufacturing, it was revealed that the company’s CEO, Richard Dauch, was paid $10.2 million in salary, bonuses and other benefits in 2007: here.

Gap Between America’s Rich and Poor Worsened in Past Two Decades: here.

Almost 100 Indians who moved to the US for jobs have marched hundreds of miles to Washington DC in protest at being forced to work “like slaves”: here.

Tropical diseases that ravage Africa, Asia and Latin America commonly occur among the poor in the USA, leaving thousands of people shattered by debilitating complications including mental retardation, heart disease and epilepsy, an analysis showed Monday: here.

6 thoughts on “Social inequality means poor people die earlier in the USA

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