Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 29 July 2021
Last week I wrote Life Expectancy Plunges! … or Does It?. That essay left two questions open and unanswered. One of my life principles is “Life is too short to fail to indulge one’s curiosity.” This follow-up satisfies my curiosity on those two points, and hopefully yours as well.
The first of the two questions was prompted by this claim in the media:
“New federal data draws one of the starkest illustrations to date of how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanic and Black Americans, showing that they suffered a far steeper drop in life expectancy in 2020 than white Americans.” and “From 2019 to 2020, Hispanic people experienced the greatest drop in life expectancy — three years — and Black Americans saw a decrease of 2.9 years. White people experienced the smallest decline, of 1.2 years.” [ source ] Pay attention to my added emphasis (bolding), the claim is that the coronavirus pandemic had disproportionate effect.
At the time, I said “Whether those numbers were “disproportionate” I will gladly leave up to the epidemiologists and the statisticians.” Since then, the question has disturbed my peace of mind – I find it hard to believe that a virus is smart enough (or sneaky enough) to seek out victims by race and/or ethnicity. Digging in, I found that the CDC supplies the data in the following graph:
The link under the image will lead you to the very latest data, but it will not be much different – this graph and the following data is only two days old.
|Race/Ethnicity||Percent of deaths||Count of deaths||Percent of US population|
|American Indian / Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic||1.2||4,887||0.74|
|Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic||0.2||896||0.182|
The graph and underlying numbers show that for each and every racial and ethnic group the percentage of overall deaths by race/ethnicity is within a percentage point or two of the percentage of U.S. population for that group. Remarkably close for such a wide-ranging statistic that crosses all social, age, educational and economic strata.
Bottom Line: Covid Deaths in the United States are not significantly disproportionate by Race or Ethnicity.
The second issue left open and unanswered concerned whether or not people were actually living longer in the present than in the past. Friendly readers supplied various links to actuarial tables (my thanks for all the help!).
Here’s the answer in a single animated gif created from slides found in a PowerPoint presentation offered by the Society of Acutaries.
Sometimes it is easier to watch one portion of an animation at a time. For instance, on the first viewing one might just look at the overall changing shape. On the second run-through, watch the declining infant/child mortality. The lighter blue spikes are explained in the first image: (from the left) the first is Life Expectancy at Birth, Life Expectancy at 40 and Life Expectancy at 65. These march to the right indicating longer expectancy over time. You can view or download and open the animation from here. Windows Photos viewer allows you to advance one screen at a time. The overall picture appears in the last screen, repeated here:
Bottom Line: In the United States, infant and child mortality have decreased and people, in general, are living longer lives. The upper limit of life span has not moved as much but has steadily gone up over the last century.
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Just wanted to clear up these two points. The first is in contradiction to – and thoroughly debunks — normal media narrative on the “disproportionate” effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in regards to race and ethnicity. The second confirms what most of us expected – fewer babies and children die and the rest of us generally live longer.
Thanks for reading.
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