Health Disparities in the United States
In this project we (Jay Olshansky and members of the MacArthur Aging Societies Network) explore past and present health disparities in the context of a rapidly aging society that is emerging during a time of optimism about the next longevity revolution. Disparities by age, race, sex, and education (a principal measure of socioeconomic status – SES) in the U.S., and the demographic measure of life expectancy (a generic measure of health status that can be compared among population subgroups) are used as metrics. Education is one of many indicator variables used to measure SES (15), but the advantage in this case is that educational attainment appears on death certificates – thus allowing for direct measurement of linkages between education and life expectancy. We then explore the reasons why disparities exist by decomposing observed race and sex differences in survival into the relative contributions of age and underlying cause of death. This project has been successfully completed. Results have been published as a paper in Health Affairs and have created a large media echo, including a summary on the front page of the New York Times.