The New York Times headline “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans” summarised Professors Case and Deaton’s 2015 findings on US mortality and morbidity in the 21st Century.
The change they detected is a reversal of decades of progress in reducing mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country has to date seen a similar turnaround. The reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics. Black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. Last month (March 2017) they followed up with a new paper looking at reasons why this is happening – summarised by Forbes Magazine as “Explaining Why White Middle Aged America Is Killing Itself.”
In this lecture, Professors Case and Deaton will set out their latest thinking and the policy implications. In particular they will set out and discuss their findings of a:
- Marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1998 and 2015.
- Parallel increase in midlife morbidity. They found self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work.
- Rise in death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings and suicide supporting evidence of growing midlife distress. These have risen in a similar fashion in Scotland and Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, in England and Wales over the same period. However, more robust progress against heart disease has – to date - protected the UK from seeing all-cause mortality rates rise.
- Preliminary but plausible story of cumulative disadvantage over life, in the labour market, in marriage and child outcomes, and in health;
- Conclusion that these findings have profoundly negative implications for policies. Even ones that successfully improve earnings and jobs, or redistribute income, will take many years to reverse the mortality and morbidity increase.
Professor Anne Case is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where she is the Director of the Research Program in Development Studies. She has been awarded the Kenneth J. Arrow Prize in Health Economics from the International Health Economics Association, for her work on the links between economic status and health status in childhood, and the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for her research on midlife morbidity and mortality. In April 2017 she was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Professor Sir Angus Deaton is Senior Scholar and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs Emeritus at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University. In 2015 he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In 2016, he was made a Knight Bachelor for services to economics and international affairs.
The lecture will be held at 6pm on Thursday 15 June 2017 at The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London.
For further information, view the full invite here.