There's more grim news about inequality in America.
New research documents significant disparities in the lifespans of Americans depending on where they live. And those gaps appear to be widening, according to the research.
"It's dramatic," says Christopher Murray, who heads the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. He helped conduct the analysis, published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Health experts have long known that Americans living in different parts of the country tend to have different lifespans. But Murray's team decided to take a closer look, analyzing records from every U.S. county between 1980 and 2014. "What we found is that the gap is enormous," Murray says. In 2014, there was a spread of 20.1 years between the counties with the longest and shortest typical lifespans based on life expectancy at birth.
In counties with the longest lifespans, people tended to live about 87 years, while people in places with the shortest lifespans typically made it to only about 67, the researchers found. The discrepancy is equivalent to the difference between the low-income parts of the developing world and countries with high incomes, Murray notes.
For example, it's about the same gap as the difference between people living in Japan, which is among countries with the longest lifespans, and India, which has one of the shortest, Murray says. The U.S. counties with the longest life expectancy are places like Marin County, Calif., and Summit County, Colo. — communities that are well-off and more highly educated.
Counties with the shortest life expectancy tend to have communities that are poorer and less educated. The lowest is in Oglala Lakota County, S.D., which includes the Pine Ridge Native American reservation.