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Why Death Rates Are Rising, and How To Stop the Rise

Dec. 16, 2017 (EIRNS)—MarketWatch news site interviewed Princeton Prof. Angus Deaton on Dec. 13, the co-author of the first study which showed that working class mortality rates were rising in the United States. Deaton gave definite ideas for the first time on why this is occurring. Deaton and his wife and co-author Prof. Ann Case called these "deaths of despair" in 2015 when they first showed that the long decline in death rates had stopped and/or reversed since 1999 for white Americans in the peak working years, 25-54. They identified the dominant causes of death— liver diseases, drug overdoses, suicides—but did not speculate on the reason.

Subsequent studies using mortality data from the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and from county health departments, have showed that since 2010, the death rate rise has extended up to age 65 for white Americans and that overall life expectancy in the United States is now very slowly falling.

In the interview, Deaton says that the "deaths of despair" are "the fruit of globalization, deindustrialization." This, despite asserting that he believes that

"globalization and technical change are the guarantee of our future prosperity.... People in China and India have been dragged out of the most awful poverty."

"The destruction of the working class way of life" is another phrase he uses;

"The ultimate poison may be in the labor market, but, it works through a lot of other bad stuff that is going on, like the decline in marriage rates, the increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing, and all those sort of things."

Deaton says that opioid addiction is undoubtedly causing the largest share of deaths, but that suicides and liver cirrhosis, combined, are causing more.

When asked what could reverse this, Deaton suggests wage increases! "There has been a stagnation in wages for 50 years." There are a lot of policies in the United States—things that are amenable to action—that have actually been contributing to hold down wages. His preferred means of accomplishing higher wages is through a single-payer health insurance system, but his idea is clear.