If white America is in ‘crisis,’ what have black Americans been living through?
Jeff Guo makes an excellent point in his report in the Washington Post:
For the past year and a half, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have been ringing the alarm about rising mortality among middle-aged white Americans.
The pair have attracted a bit of controversy for pointing out these facts. Recently, Pacific Standard’s Malcolm Harris suggested that their research, and the way it was presented, put too much emphasis on white mortality — when black mortality has always been worse. “American white privilege is still very much in effect, and no statistical tomfoolery can change that,” he wrote.
Sam Fulwood III, a fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, worried that Case and Deaton’s work would further amplify a growing narrative about white working class woes, to the exclusion of the African American experience. “I worry about how political people will manipulate Case and Deaton’s findings to argue for more aid for white people, but ignore the same, long-standing concerns of people of color,” he wrote last week.
Case and Deaton point out that the trend of increasing white American mortality — higher death rates in middle age — is noteworthy because those death rates have been going down for nearly everyone else: for African Americans, Latino Americans, for people in the U.K. and Germany and France. When we’re used to life getting better, it’s unusual to see life getting worse.
“It’s not as much news if people’s mortality rates are falling the way you would hope they are falling,” Case said in an interview Monday. “What seems like news is when mortality has stopped falling, and no one has noticed that it has stopped.” That’s what happened in the case of white Americans, she said.
But the critics on the left do have a point, which is that the statistics about black mortality may have not gotten enough attention in the media. So it’s worth straightening that out right now: Black Americans have long been dying faster than white Americans. They’ve long been less happy than white Americans.
Now, though, the two groups are starting to look more and more alike. Particularly among those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, class has become equally — if not more important — than race as a predictor of people’s health and emotional well-being.
Case and Deaton have a chart showing the declining mortality gap between black and white people without a college degree. Back in 1995, black Americans with a high school education or less were dying at more than twice the rate of similar white Americans. Since then, black mortality has been declining, while white mortality has been climbing. In recent years, the two groups have more or less met in the middle. . .
Continue reading. The article includes some charts that show what he’s talking about.