The growing inequality of life expectancy in the United States

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Recent mortality trends in the United States are disturbing. Life expectancy for the total population decreased in 2015 for the first time since 1993, with larger decreases for some groups than others. Inequality in life expectancy has stopped falling and along some dimensions — such as between low-income and high-income Americans — it is increasing.
Analyses of mortality data from 1950 to 2015 help put recent trends in perspective, show that life expectancy and inequality in life expectancy are usually negatively correlated, and suggest changes in health policy that could reduce inequality in life expectancy and help people live longer, write Stanford Health Policy experts Victor R. Fuchs and Karen Eggleston in their new policy brief for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Both are also senior fellows at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Current efforts to improve survival, and much of the research funded by the National Institutes of Health, are heavily weighted toward fighting heart disease and cancer, the leading causes of mortality and afflictions suffered most often by older Americans. By devoting more resources to preventing the killers of our younger population — such as suicide, gunshots, and accidents, especially motor vehicle traffic accidents — policymakers can take a significant step toward increasing U.S. life expectancy to a rate equal to that of most other developed countries.

Read the Policy Brief