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.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Significant Metro Inequalities Exist in Life Expectancy in the U.S.

Almost six years ago I blogged about the major differences in life expectancy by county in the U.S. Marin County, California, topped the list with the highest male life expectancy, and several counties in the south had the lowest life expectancy. A new report, recently summarized by the Washington Post, looks at mortality data for metropolitan areas in the U.S. Keep in mind that for most of human history cities were less healthy than the countryside, but the health transition of the last century has turned that around and cities now have higher life expectancy than the rural areas in almost every corner of the world (it might be that some Chinese cities with lots of smog are less healthy than the surrounding rural areas...). Yet, even among those metro areas there can be important inequalities, some of it accounted for by the demographics of the state in question:
The measure [life expectancy] is closely tied to income and healthy behaviors, which is why it’s perhaps not surprising that residents of Hawaii, with the second-highest median household income in the United States and an active lifestyle, have the longest life expectancy (81.2 years), while Mississippians, with the lowest household income, one of the highest rates of obesity and the sixth-highest rate of smoking, have the shortest (74.9 years). As 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion site, found out by looking at metropolitan areas, there’s also a wide gap in life expectancy within states such as California, Florida, South Carolina and Texas, much of it explained by variations in the metropolitan areas’ household income and rates of smoking and obesity.
If we look at California, for example, we find that the metro area with the highest life expectancy (83.1 years--both sexes combined) is in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. This is otherwise known as Silicon Valley, so all of those tech nerds have enough money and a healthy enough lifestyle to stay alive longer than most other people in the U.S. This is also the part of California with the most diverse neighborhoods, as I mentioned a few days ago, including immigrants from East Asia and Western Europe--the areas of the world with the highest life expectancy. Indeed, life expectancy in Silicon Valley is about the same as in Japan or Switzerland. However, if you drive north up the center of California towards Mt. Shasta you'll run into the metro area of Redding. These folks have an average life expectancy that is more than 6 years less than Silicon Valley and is much closer to the levels found in those southern states with the lowest life expectancy in the country. To be sure, these levels are much more similar to what we find in Eastern and Southern Europe and probably for the same reasons--lower levels of income and less healthy lifestyles.

1 comment: