The eight researchers – economists from Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and the U.S. Treasury’s office of tax analysis – peeked into 1.4 billion anonymous tax records that dated from 1999 to 2014 and matched the data to death records from the Social Security Administration.
They concluded that wealthier people tended to live longer than those who had less. Males who lived in the top fifth percentile tended to add another two years to their lives, while females in that same bracket lived longer by another three. By contrast, males who lived in the bottom fifth percent added a few more months to their life expectancy while females, in that same bracket, barely benefited at all.
The researchers also checked life expectancy against geography and noticed a pattern. People seemed to live longer in certain regions than in others. People who lived in cities like New York and San Francisco with “highly educated populations, high incomes, and high levels of government expenditures” tended to jack several years to their lives while those who lived in regions that included Oklahoma and rust belt cities like Gary, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio lost one or two years in comparison.
Other factors such as access to health care, unemployment rates, or housing segregation could have accounted for these findings, but when the authors checked these they found no correlation. Instead, they concluded that “individuals in the lowest income quartile have more healthful behaviors and live longer in areas with more immigrants, higher home prices, and more college graduates.”
It is important to note that although these records show that wealthier people seem to live longer, we cannot take this research for certain. Scientists need to corroborate this study by investigating other countries. Aside from which one or more omitted factors may have contributed towards the life expectancy differences. The researchers simply concluded that people who lived in certain upwardly-rich regions lived longer, but any of a number of other factors could have resulted in this association. This includes cosmopolitanism of the region, access to higher education, more opportunities, higher satisfaction with job or living conditions and so forth
Science is far more complicated. Research needs to be duplicated among other populations and to include further attributes before researchers draw definite conclusions.
Source: Chetty, R. et al. (2016). The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014, JAMA.doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4226