Guest post by Kip Hansen – July 29, 2021
Last week I wrote Life Expectancy Plunges! … or does it? This essay left two questions unanswered and unanswered. One of my tenets of life is: “Life is too short not to indulge your curiosity.” This follow-up satisfies my curiosity about these two points and hopefully yours as well.
The first of the two questions was sparked by this claim in the media:
“New federal data paints one of the strongest illustrations yet of how The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanic and black Americanswhich shows that in 2020 they suffered a much greater decline in life expectancy than white Americans. and “From 2019 to 2020, Hispanic people saw the largest drop in life expectancy – three years – and black Americans saw a 2.9 year decrease. White people experienced the smallest decline of 1.2 years. ” [ source ] Note my additional emphasis (in bold), the claim is that the coronavirus pandemic had a disproportionate impact.
I said at the time, “Whether these numbers were” disproportionate “is something I like to leave to epidemiologists and statisticians.” Since then, the question has disturbed my peace of mind – I can hardly believe that a virus is smart enough (or sneaky enough) to be victims search by race and / or ethnicity. While digging in, I noticed that the CDC is providing the data in the graphic below:
The link below the picture will take you to the latest data, but it won’t be much different – this graph and the data below is only two days old.
|Race / ethnicity||Percentage of deaths||Number of deaths||Percent of the US population|
|Spanish / Latino||18.6||78.121||18.45|
|Native American Indians, non-Hispanic||1.2||4,887||0.74|
|Native Hawaiian / other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic||0.2||896||0.182|
|Multiple / Other, Non-Hispanic||3.8||15,993||2.22|
The graph and underlying numbers show that for each individual race and ethnic group, the percentage of total deaths by race / ethnicity is within a percentage point or two of the percentage of the US population for that group. Remarkably close to such extensive statistics that cross all social, age, educational and economic classes.
Bottom Line: Covid deaths in the United States are not materially disproportionate by race or ethnicity.
The second question, which remained open and unanswered, was whether people actually live longer in the present than in the past. Kind readers provided several links to actuarial tables (thanks for all the help!).
Here is the answer in a single animated gif made from slides found in a Society of Acutaries PowerPoint presentation.
Sometimes it is easier to watch part of an animation at a time. For example, when looking at it for the first time, one could only look at the overall changing shape. On the second run, observe the falling infant / child mortality. The lighter blue tips are explained in the first picture: (from the left) the first is life expectancy at birth, life expectancy at 40, and life expectancy at 65. These march to the right, suggesting longer life expectancy over time. You can watch the animation here or download and open it. You can use the Windows Photos Viewer to advance one screen at a time. The overall picture appears on the last screen, here repeated:
Bottom Line: In the United States, infant and child mortality rates have declined and people are generally living longer. The upper limit of the service life has not shifted that much, but has risen steadily over the last century.
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Just wanted to clarify these two points. The first contradicts – and thoroughly exposes – normal media narratives about the “disproportionate” effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on race and ethnicity. The second confirms what most of us expected – fewer babies and children die, and the rest of us generally live longer.
Thank you for reading.
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