The Implications of Differential Trends in Mortality for Social Security Policy

Published: 2017
Project ID: UM17-19


Recent, highly publicized papers document that for U.S. Whites with low incomes or low educational attainment, adult mortality rates have stagnated for men and increased for women, while the general population continues to enjoy gains in life expectancy. Some have speculated about possible contributors to this growing inequality in mortality, but a systematic analysis of causes, explanations, social insurance policy implications, and possible targets for promoting health equity remains to be done. We propose to examine the relative importance of various possible explanations for the observed trends, including the increased rate of opioid-related deaths, a growing disparity in harmful health behaviors, gaps in access to medical care, and the health impact of psychosocial stressors associated with low socioeconomic status. The study will apply standard demographic methods using data drawn from U.S. vital statistics, census, and national health surveys.