03 May

American lifespan by county

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Average life space in the US. A useful indicator of health/wealth and success of a country/governing area. But importantly, it’s done by county.

Since I’ve moved to the US, as an outsider with many international friends, I sometimes have to act as ‘Speaker for Americans’ in explaining things. Most of my friends in Western non-US countries are flabbergasted by healthcare and how its run in the US (and now that I’m a freelancer and have also gone through the experience of a major issue with multiple hospital visits, and then had a visit it Canada to compare it to, then took out several books about how healthcare is done throughout the world to educate myself, I’m a bit croggled as well), as well as other things. And what I have to explain to them is…

…the US is a really fucking big place. I mean, it’s as big as all of Europe. So it’s not so much comparing, say France and the US and how things are done, but like saying you have French hospitals and some-Eastern-European-country that just got of communism/dictatorship/whathave you and just joined the EU and has its own set up hanging in there.

There is tremendous disparity and difference from a rural West Virginian/Kentucky county and Manhattan.

And that’s because they’re really, really far apart.

That creates culture differences, expectational differences, and infrastructure differences. To whit:

In 661 counties, life expectancy stopped dead or went backwards for women since 1999. By comparison, life expectancy for men stopped or reversed in 166 counties. This troubling trend is occurring in 84% of Oklahoma counties, 58% of Tennessee counties, and 33% of Georgia counties.

The gap between women living the longest lives and those living the shortest lives is growing, too. In Collier, Florida, women live 85.8 years on average. In McDowell, West Virginia, they live to be 74.1. That’s an 11.7-year gap. In 1989, the gap was 8.7 years. For men, the gap is larger – 15.5 years – but it has grown by less than a year since 1989. Men live the longest in Marin, California, at 81.6 years. They live the shortest lives on average in Quitman and Tunica, Mississippi, at 66.1.

The range of life expectancies is so broad that in some counties, such as Stearns, Minnesota, lifespans rival some of the places where people live the longest – Japan, Hong Kong, and France – while in other counties, life expectancies are lower than places that spend far less on health care – Egypt, Indonesia, and Colombia. Even within states, there are large disparities. Women in Fairfax, Virginia, have among the best life expectancies in the world at 84.1 years, while in Sussex, Virginia, they have among the worst at 75.9 years.

If you live in the right place in the US, you’re living the developed world.

If you live in the wrong place, it’s similar in some cases to the developing world.

That shocked me when I moved here. I pictured the USA as being fairly uniform. And very wealthy. And it is, very wealthy. In many ways.

But in many ways, when I’m at a gas station in Allen County, Ohio and my attendant has most of their teeth pulled I have to remember I’m not living in ‘THE US-Fucking-A,’ but Allen County, which according to the research done above has an average lifespan of 71.9 years, putting it almost 10 years on average BELOW the US average, and which means I roughly am living in a part of the US with the equivalence of, according to Wikipedia, a place like El Salvador or Armenia (although, unlike those other countries, since Allen County is in the US, I can drive to a better place for opportunities if I can afford a car and transportation).

To understand where the US is the US that outsiders think it is, you need to look to metro areas.

According to the US Mayors report for 2011:

In 2010, U.S. metro economies accounted for 89.8% of the nation’s gross domestic product and wage income and 85.7% of all jobs—slightly down from 2008, but still the overwhelming majority of domestic product and wage and salary disbursements.

The New York metropolitan area ranked first, with 2010 gross metropolitan product (GMP) of $1.28 trillion, followed by Los Angeles ($738 billion), Chicago ($531 billion), Washington ($426 billion), and Houston ($379 billion).

The US economy is $15 trillion, of which NYC, LA, Chicago, DC and Houston are responsible for $3.35 trillion of.

Now, this isn’t an indictment of the county I live in or the US… if things were getting better or holding still.

But sadly, as I pointed out above, counties like Allen County are losing. People are, on average, living fewer years. Meaning something is broken. American progress in those counties that are like the developing world, are slumping, while others are moving forward.

That gap will be, if it continues, a major fissure in a future America.