“Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group … death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.”
The big new killers of middle-aged white folks? Alcoholic liver disease, overdoses of heroin and opioids, and suicides. So wrote Gina Kolata in The New York Times of a stunning study by the husband-wife team of Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and Anne Case.
Deaton could cite but one parallel to this social disaster: “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this.”
Middle-aged whites are four times as likely as middle-aged blacks to kill themselves. Their fitness levels are falling as they suffer rising levels of physical pain, emotional stress and mental depression, which helps explain the alcohol and drug addiction.
But what explains the social disaster of white Middle America?
First, an economy where, though at or near full employment, a huge slice of the labor force has dropped out. Second, the real wages of working Americans have been nearly stagnant for decades.
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