Poor white women and a public health mystery


Maybe because the cost of healthcare has exploded so much that poor people can’t afford as much care as they used to? Probably a number of factors from obesity to the demographic they’re looking at “uneducated poor white women” shrinking as a percentage of the population and concentrating the worst cases into the statistic.


Cigarettes, meth, poor health care, domestic violence, poor working conditions, and substandard nutrition?

These each seem (in my limited experience) to be more common among that cohort.

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Interesting article.

I would say the big thing that separates poor white women from poor black women in these past 20 years, in terms of something that happened to white people that didn’t happen as much to black people, is meth. Definitely. It is an absolute epidemic in rural areas for the younger generations. I think the researchers should look at that more as a defining factor in this decline in this specific group.

The article compares black and white poor women, I am not just coming up with that on my own. They compare them because life expectancy went up for uneducated black women compared to the decline amongst uneducated white women.

You left out “voting Republican”


/inflates lead balloon

I wonder if there has been an expansion of female employment in job sectors that are high-risk/low pay but that don’t really exploit any sexually dimorphic physical differences.

If this is the case, we would have expected to have seen a similar thing to poor black women in the 80s and 90s when crack cocaine was exploding onto the scene? Did we? I honestly don’t know, but it sounds plausible.

bing bing, winner.

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So, you do know that science isn’t the art of picking hunches, and that policy based on guesses never works, right?

Actually, if you read the story, the drop in life expectancy correlates with lack of employment.


Sure, but we are trying to explain a delta. On your list, only meth and maybe substandard nutrition seem like things that would have become substantially worse in recent years.

Interesting article. The amount of stress the working poor are under in this country is just enormous. Women tend to shoulder much of that. I don’t find this study surprising in the least, actually.


I wonder whether the cohort they are tracking is really the same, over time. The high school graduation rate for whites increased from somewhere in the high 80s (percentilewise) to somewhere in the mid-90s over the time period in question. If we assume that this is due to changes in the ease of graduation or the effectiveness of various programs, i.e. not due to changes in the capabilities of the population, then the high school dropouts of 2008 represent an even less capable segment of society than those of 1990. It would be as if you had taken the bottom half (in terms of academics) of the 1990 cohort.


I think the use of meth has been greatly sensationalized, even in rural areas. As with all drugs, legal or not, the majority of people who use meth are not addicted to it.

The proportion of Americans who use methamphetamine on a monthly basis has hovered in the range of 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent since 1999. Almost 11 million Americans have tried methamphetamine at least once – far fewer than those who have tried inhalants (23 million), psychedelics (34 million), cocaine (34 million), or marijuana (100 million). Of those 10.3 million, only 1.3 million used methamphetamine in the last year; and only 512,000 used it within the last 30 days. The estimated number of semi-regular methamphetamine users in the U.S. (those who use once a month or more) equals less than one quarter of one percent of the population (0.2 percent).


Boyoboy, that’s a big question: why. Demographics don’t say anything about a particular person, and one person’s experience doesn’t explain demographic changes.

My personal experience is that I would be dead today if not for the affordable healthcare at Planned Parenthood. Catching abnormal cells on my cervix meant I was able to afford the treatment, before it became cancer. I don’t know if it always works that way, but my doctor told me that my case would have become cancer. That was 15 years ago.

So, I think healthcare matters.


You do realize these are human beings right? People, real live people, with lives and loves and problems and families. And you’re just shitting all over them because you disagree with their politics. These are people who have little to no political capital and no access to the halls of power at all. While they might not be on the bottom of the ladder, they are certainly near the bottom.

If you really think the democrats are innocent in our recent race to the bottom (or for politicians, race to the top to see who can reap the most corporate money), you need to go see who it was the gutted welfare and put in the final paving stones for the neo-liberarlization of the economy. The republicans did not do it alone. We’ve all been sold out by the power structure and both parties are responsible for these horrible conditions. As long as we are viewing this from a perspective of dems vs. repubs, or liberals vs. conservatives we play right into that game and we all lose.


That was heartbreaking.

I just read a book review of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in The Economist, and it seems very apropos. I wasn’t planning on reading the book, but I think I will now.


High school dropouts tend not to vote, and to the extent that they do vote they lean left. You’re looking for the white high school graduates without college degrees, they would fit your ‘socially conservative white trash’ stereotype better.


Oxycontin and other prescription drugs would be more plausible candidates; it’s well known that prescription drugs kill more people than illegal ones. But even there I’m not sure the numbers are large enough to account for such a drop in life expectancy.

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And of course there is the problem of the inability to buy legal drugs that you need. That can’t help.