This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Life Expectancy is Going Down in Kentucky

When you think of Kentucky Downs you think of the racetrack where the Kentucky Derby was run last weekend. But data just published by researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggests that what is going down in Kentucky is life expectancy. The article is in JAMA Internal Medicine and it was summarized a couple of days ago by The Atlantic.
In 13 counties across the U.S., Americans can now expect to die younger than their parents did. And the eight counties with the largest declines in life expectancy since 1980 are all in the state of Kentucky. 
The other counties tend to be associated with native American-Indian populations, as you can deduce from the map below.
Kentucky has one of the highest rates of death from drug overdoses, with about 30 deaths per 100,000 people. Owsley County is the country’s poorest white-majority county, according to a 2016 analysis by Al Jazeera, with about 45 percent of its roughly 4,500 residents living in poverty. The decline of coal mines and tobacco fields have battered the county, whose population peaked in 1940. (Indeed, the JAMA study authors acknowledge that part of the life expectancy trends might be due to healthy people moving away from blighted areas, and “high-risk” people remaining in them.)
These declines are already on top of the rather stark geographic differences in life expectancy by county and state, as I have noted before. As Chris Murray, Director of the Institute that produced these results, suggests--these kinds of trends are genuinely unacceptable in a country that spends more per person on health care than other nation on the planet.

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