Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling
The analysis by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case may offer the most rigorous evidence to date of both the causes and implications of a development that has been puzzling demographers in recent years: the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites. In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.
This is obviously astonishing, but perhaps it shouldn't be. The current political dialogue is focused on nearly every other demographic group in America. Women and minorities, immigrants... hell, even transgender bathroom rights receives more press than poor, middle-aged whites. There are a few take-aways from this for me:
1) The sense middle-aged whites have that their lives have gotten worse, not better, is not just in their heads. Increased mortality is the absolute most direct way to detect a problem within a group of people. In this case, the deaths are linked to increases in substance abuse and suicide. For all the poo-pooing from the Left about "white privilege," there is something very wrong happening among the less privileged whites in this country, and it's largely being ignored. It's easy for college educated whites to dismiss poor whites as "white trash," but perhaps that's part of the problem.
2) The Democratic party is proposing literally nothing for these people and refuse to even acknowledge that there's a problem. Then they wonder why poor whites turn and vote for Republicans, who mostly demagogue illegal immigrants for their problems. Are Republicans offering anything substantive for them? Not really, but at least in the process of giving poor whites someone to blame for their plight, they are acknowledging the problem exists. This is similar to how Democrats pay lip service to systemic racism while only making token gestures to eliminate it, while Republicans barely acknowledge it exists.
3) This trend has been on-going long enough that it's likely to continue and will be very difficult to reverse. The sooner we begin a discussion on it, the better. And hopefully the Left will come up with serious ideas for this, since it runs contrary to their narratives about privilege in this country. (And hopefully the Right can come up with something besides, "Get married," especially since this is their largest voting bloc.) Yes, black Americans of that age range still have a higher mortality rate than whites (for now), but the gap is closing, and if nothing changes, white mortality will eventually surpass those of blacks.
Middle-aged blacks still have a higher mortality rate than whites — 581 per 100,000, compared with 415 for whites — but the gap is closing, and the rate for middle-aged Hispanics is far lower than for middle-aged whites at 262 per 100,000.
That black Americans are making progress is heartening. But when another group begins falling behind, we need to ask why.
Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” he said.It was to the great shame of many American politicians that they disregarded HIV/AIDS as a "gay disease" and saw fit to ignore it. It is my hope that the Left will not similarly disregard this as a "white people's problem" and similarly ignore it.