A recent study conducted by economists from Princeton University has shed light on a striking disparity in life expectancy between individuals with college degrees and those without. The findings, based on an analysis of demographic data in the United States, suggest that despite robust economic growth in the nation over the past two decades, measures of well-being, particularly life expectancy, have not shown similar progress.
According to the study by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, in 2021, 25-year-old Americans without a four-year college degree were expected to live approximately 10 years less on average than their college-educated counterparts. This stark difference in life expectancy underscores the significant impact that education levels can have on an individual’s longevity.
This research builds upon a trend that has become increasingly apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted life expectancy. Despite the United States’ growing wealth, it has fallen behind other industrialized countries in terms of life expectancy. While the US ranked in the middle among these nations a generation ago, it now lags behind most other wealthy countries. Even before the pandemic, Americans’ likelihood of premature death was on the rise, resulting in a gradual decline in life expectancy. This increase in mortality rates was attributed to factors such as drug overdoses, shootings, and car accidents.
The study’s authors emphasize that “Americans with a college degree, if they were a separate country, would be one of the best performers, just below Japan.” This observation highlights the significant positive impact that higher education can have on life expectancy. Graduates tend to have higher incomes and are better equipped to protect themselves from various dangers compared to non-graduates.
However, it’s worth noting that even Americans with degrees face a higher likelihood of falling victim to violence or drug overdoses compared to their counterparts in other countries, although they may be less susceptible to certain health issues like cancer. This underscores the role of inequality as a key factor contributing to the overall decline in American mortality rates. Socioeconomic disparities, access to healthcare, and the availability of resources can all play a role in these disparities in life expectancy.
The study’s findings highlight the complex relationship between education, inequality, and life expectancy in the United States. While education can significantly improve an individual’s prospects for a longer and healthier life, broader societal factors and inequalities continue to impact overall mortality rates in the nation.