Why Are White High School Dropouts Dying Younger?S

Here's a novel trend: white people in America are losing relative to non-white people in America, in some way. What?? Yes, of course, this trend involves poor and/ or undereducated white people, but still. You don't see that too often. So—why are the white high school dropouts dying younger now?

White women who did not graduate from high school have a life expectancy today of five years less than they did in 1990. White men who didn't finish high school have a life expectancy of three years less. During the same time period, black and Latino people without a high school diploma saw their life expectancies rise. Which raises the obvious question: What's the deal with white people? From the NYT:

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

The entire story is a fascinating read, and highlights a few basic points:

  • This sort of life expectancy decline over time is very abnormal and "baffling." It cannot be dismissed with an "oh, they're poor, duh" type of comment.
  • Well-off and well-educated whites are doing just fine. This is confined to their undereducated peers.
  • The fact that even poor whites are being surpassed by their black and Latino peers is pretty notable, when you recall American History, 1565-Present.
So what is really up with you, white male and especially female high school dropouts? Tell us in the comments. We'll have this thing solved in no time.

[NYT. Photo: AP]