Deaths of Despair. The Case/Deaton paper about mortality of White Americans. Some remarks.
Anne Case and her husband Angus Deaton have published a new paper about the deteriorating health of non-hispanic Whites in the USA. The use of more refined and more granular data as well as another year of data again shows a grim picture of ever rising ‘Deaths of Despair’. For those familiar with ‘Decline of the USA’, a book written by the editor of this blog Edward Fullbrook, their findings won’t come as a total surprise. But the situation stays abhorrent.
Death rates of those white people are going up. And they keep going up. Life expectancy is falling – especially life expectancy of the less educated. Which is totally anomalous in a historical sense as well as compared to other countries, according to the authors (I do not entirely agree, see below). And not because health care is imploding. But because people seem to give up. Some remarks:
- It is not about health care perse. The table below shows that curable and preventable diseases are declining – even for non-hispanic whites – are declining
- ‘Deaths of Despair’ are also increasing in other Anglo-Saxon countries. But not in non-Anglo Saxon countries (table). Even in Ireland.
- While I was writing this Noah Smith linked, on Twitter, to this excellent 2014 new York Review of Books article by Masha Gessen about Russia and the incredible level of Deaths of Despair overthere. I do not entirely agree with the article (as pointed at on this blog, male life expectancy has recently reached a new record for the first time in about fifty years). But the ‘Death of Despair’ theme is as clear as in the USA.
What causes such historically unprecedented events (unprecedented in peacetime and after 1880, that is)? Two quotes which reinforce themselves, the first from Case and Deaton and the second from Gessen:
After having shown that there is quite some correlation between real wages and Deaths of Despair Case and Deaton tentatively state: “Better, we can see globalization and automation as the underlying deep causes. Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline”. And Gessen states: “In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarian rule is truly possible only in countries that are large enough to be able to afford depopulation. The Soviet Union proved itself to be just such a country on at least three occasions in the twentieth century—teaching its citizens in the process that their lives are worthless… .”. As we know, the USA is a large country, too (but Ireland isn’t – or should this country be considered to be a part of the Eurozone?).