Growing US income gap reducing life expectancy for poor


The widening income gap in the US is helping the rich lead longer lives, while cutting short the lives of those who are struggling financially, according to a new study.

Nearly three-quarters of wealthy Americans who were in their 50s and 60s in 1992 were still alive in 2014, according to a study released this week by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s independent watchdog.

However, only half of poor Americans in their 50s and 60s in 1992 made it to 2014, the study found.

“It’s not only that rich people are living longer but some people’s life expectancy is actually shrinking compared to their parents, for some groups of people,” said Kathleen Romig, a senior policy analyst at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The poorest 40 percent of women actually have lower life expectancies than their mothers did,” Romig noted.

The study analyzed the relationship between income, wealth and longevity, and how wealth and income are distributed among older Americans over time.

The report also showed that whites tended to live longer than blacks, with 68 percent of Caucasian Americans who were in their 50s and 60s in 1992 were still alive in 2014. The figure for African Americans was just 52 percent.

Advocates have long pointed to racism in the US health care system.

The massive income inequality in the US has triggered anxiety among Americans and politicians for years, energizing right-wing populism and the emergence of nationalist leaders like President Donald Trump, and pushing the Democratic Party towards the left.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, commissioned the report, seized on its findings.

“Poverty is a life-threatening issue for millions of people in this country, and this report confirms it,” Sanders said in a statement.

“We must put an end to the obscene income and wealth inequality in our country, and ensure living wages, quality health care and retirement security for our seniors as human rights,” Sanders said.

“If we do not urgently act to solve the economic distress of millions of Americans, a whole generation will be condemned to early death.”

Income data released by the US Census Bureau on Tuesday showed that upper-income Americans are capturing more of the economy’s gains. The data shows the top 20 percent accounted for 52 percent of household income last year, compared with 49 percent in 1999.

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