Rich/poor life expectancy gap depends on where you live

April 28, 2016

The richest 1 percent of Americans live 14.6 years longer, on average, than those with the lowest 1 percent of incomes and that gap is growing.

While this disparity is well-known, the reasons are not well-understood. The Health Inequity Project is working to change that. Publishing their results in JAMA, researchers from across academia joined forces to map income disparities in life expectancy finding wide variation across the United States. Rich Americans’ life expectancy is growing regardless of where they live, but gains and losses for poor Americans vary considerably by geography.

Some large cities are making good progress extending the lives of the poor. New York City leads the nation with the highest life expectancy for low-income 40 year-olds. However, in other regions poor residents have lifespans closer to very poor countries and are losing ground.

The ERC region does relatively well, with most regions at average or better life expectancies for the poorest citizens. Improvements correlate with reducing health risks such as smoking and obesity, and with local circumstances such as public health programs and education. The authors of the report argue that health equity efforts need to happen at the local level as well as nationally.

Bottom income quartile life expectancy at age 40, men and women among largest 100 U.S. counties by population – CSG/ERC region

Rank among top 100 counties County State Life expectancy at age 40
1 Queens NY 82.6
2 Kings NY 82.6
3 Montgomery MD 82.2
4 Nassau NY 82.0
5 Bergen NJ 81.9
6 New York NY 81.8
7 Westchester NY 81.8
11 Suffolk MA 81.5
22 Fairfield CT 80.9
23 Suffolk NY 80.8
25 Middlesex MA 80.7
26 Essex MA 80.7
27 Middlesex NJ 80.6
31 Hudson NJ 80.4
32 Essex NJ 80.4
33 Norfolk MA 80.4
35 Bronx NY 80.3
36 Monroe NY 80.3
41 Monmouth NJ 80.1
43 Providence RI 80.1
50 Hartford CT 79.8
52 New Haven CT 79.6
54 Montgomery PA 79.6
56 Prince Georges MD 79.6
58 Bucks PA 79.6
63 Worcester MA 79.3
70 Erie NY 78.9
78 Baltimore MD 78.6
80 Allegheny PA 78.6
83 Philadelphia PA 78.3
88 Baltimore City MD 78.1
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