The middle class has been getting squeezed for years, according to economic data on employment and income. Now we have a study from Princeton economists Angus Deaton (a Nobel laureate) and Anne Case that finds that mortality rates have increased for white Americans with no more than a high school education.
Mortality has increased in part because of more deaths from alcohol and drug abuse and suicide. These "diseases of despair" reflect diminished hope. There also has been an increase in mortality from other causes, including heart disease.
Mortality for whites aged 45-54 with a high school education or less started increasing in 2000. This trend is limited to the US; mortality in European countries has continued to shrink over the same time span. Also mortality for nonwhites in the US has continued to shrink, as has the mortality rate for those with college education.
Centuries of economic history have shown economic progress has gone along with longer life spans. Now, despite an increase in health insurance coverage in the US, the pattern has been reversed for a significant segment of our society.
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