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The MacArthur Research Network on Aging Finds Widening Gap in Life Expectancy

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The MacArthur Research Network on Aging, chaired by Dr. John W. Rowe, MD, published its latest research showing a widening gap in life expectancy between Americans with higher education and those without a high school diploma. The gap has increased dramatically among whites, though the biggest gap is between college-educated whites and blacks who lack a high school diploma.

In the latest study conducted by the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society, Dr. Rowe and colleagues caution that a lack of an education takes a heavy toll on longevity.

  • White men and women with fewer than 12 years of education experienced dramatic declines in life expectancy since 1990, while their black counterparts experienced modest increases. For example, in 1990 the life expectancy for a white female without a high school diploma was over 78. In 2008, it had dropped to a little over 73.

  • The biggest gap is between educated whites and poorly educated blacks. White men with 16 years of education could expect to live 14.2 more years than black men with fewer than 12 years schooling. White women with 16 years of education could expect to live 10.3 more years than black women with fewer than 12 years of school.

Dr. Rowe, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Dr. Linda P. Fried, dean of the Mailman School, are co-authors of the study, which is titled "Differences in Life Expectancy Due to Race and Educational Differences Are Widening, and Many May Not Catch Up."

Read the paper.