U.S. Life Expectancy Stalls at 77.9 Years




The first of the above links will take you to a Reuters article reporting on Wednesday’s announcement by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that U.S. life expectancy hit a new high of 78 years in 2007.  The second link will take you to the most recent CDC report, to which the 2007 data has not yet been added. 

Seventy-eight was the headline figure.  But reading more closely, you’ll find that we haven’t reached 78.0 at all.  The actual figure is 77.9.  “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself.  “I thought we were already at 77.9.”  So I did some digging.  Sure enough, the old record, reported on page 173 in my book, was 77.9 years, reached in 2006.  So what gives?  How can the CDC claim that our life expectancy has climbed to a new record when, in fact, it has actually stalled at 77.9?

Easy.  Just do the same thing the Department of Labor does to hold down the unemployment figures – revise your methodology to make the numbers look better.  In this case, if you look at Table 8 on page 27 of the CDC report (the table of life expectancy), you’ll see a couple of footnotes indicating that the data for 2006 was revised.  The 2006 figure used to be 77.9 years.  Now it’s 77.7 years, making the new 2007 data point appear to be an improvement and a new record, when it’s nothing of the sort. 

Also, go to the next page – Table 9 on page 28.  There you’ll see that the death rate for age groups 15-24 and 25-34 have risen to their highest levels in many years.  And the death rate for age group 45-54 remains above its 1999 levels.  The population in these age groups dwarfs the population of the older age groups, where the death rate is declining nicely, but remains extremely high as would be expected for such elderly people. 

My economic theory is that rising overpopulation leads to rising rates of unemployment and, consequently, poverty – real poverty for those at the bottom of the economic ladder and an insidious poverty for most of the rest of us as declining real incomes gradually take their toll.  And poverty is the world’s number one cause of deaths.  This report may or may not be an indication of the beginning of that process.  It’s interesting that death rates are rising in the age groups that represent the newest entrants to the labor force – where incomes are lowest and benefits like health care are less available.  Meanwhile, death rates continue to decline for older Americans, those with Medicare and those with more secure access to health care benefits provided in pension plans.  But those benefits are dying as fast as that segment of the population. 

Has the U.S. life expectancy reached its zenith?  Will unemployment and poverty slowly drive death rates higher?  The jury is still out, but it’s an ominous sign when the CDC starts fudging data to paint a rosy picture.

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