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White DeathTeasers

Marge’s pill bottle says “Prozac” rather than “Vicodin,” but we get the message: the last decade and a half of rising white death rates without anybody paying attention has been Trump fault’s.

• Tags: White Death 

From the Washington Post:

‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for research on white mortality

By Jeff Guo April 6 at 6:00 AM

Wonkblog Analysis

Academic research rarely goes viral, but this past year, the work of Princeton professors Anne Case and Nobel laureate Angus Deaton became the center of a national fascination over the woes of white America. It’s also landed the two in the crossfire of a debate about race and the lack of attention given to problems faced by African Americans.

Why does nobody talk about this?

Look how lacking was the attention to the problem faced by African Americans that black movie stars traditionally only win a representative share of Oscars rather than more than their share.

Do you realize this country went two entire years, 2015 and 2016, between black movies winning the Best Picture Oscars in 2014 and 2017? Now that’s a crisis! In contrast, the White Death only took 15 years before the media noticed all those tens of thousands of whites dying unexpectedly. That’s because of White Privilege.

Granted, nobody ever counts up how many Oscars Mexican-Americans (as opposed to Mexican-Mexicans) get nominated for much less win. But Mexican-Americans are kind of boring so nobody cares about them.

In 2015, Case and Deaton pointed out that mortality rates among middle-aged white Americans have been rising, while mortality rates for other Americans and citizens of Western Europe have continued to plummet. Two weeks ago, the researchers released a deeper report probing the underlying reasons. Opioid abuse and alcoholism and a spike in suicides have been the most visible causes, but Case and Deaton say these “deaths of despair” are symptoms of a much larger problem — one that’s rooted in the economy, and how forces like technological change have battered less-educated whites in recent decades.

But the economy has been brutal lately for all Americans without a college degree, and this new report kicked off another round of controversy over how the American mainstream often ignores black experiences. Critics have complained that Case and Deaton’s focus on white mortality risks drawing attention away from equally pressing problems, like the persistently higher rates of black mortality.

Many of these objections have to less to do with the actual science and more to do with the context in which it was published. President Trump won huge swaths of voters in 2016 by promising to address the grievances of the white working class, and white nationalists endorsed his campaign. Case and Deaton’s research on white mortality seemed to speak directly to that political narrative: Not only were white Americans suffering from their own problems, but they were also literally dying out faster in middle age.

Yet African Americans have long suffered higher mortality rates and lower levels of happiness. In light of the divisive racial rhetoric surrounding the Trump campaign, some worried that the interest in Case and Deaton’s research would only heighten the sense that African Americans were being erased from the national conversation.

…The following is an edited and condensed transcript of our chat.

Guo: I wanted to discuss this question about whether we are neglecting African Americans with all of our focus on white mortality. …

Case: It’s not as much news if people’s mortality rates are falling the way you would hope they are falling. What seems like news is when mortality has stopped falling, and no one has noticed that it has stopped.

White Americans had just flatlined where the European countries continued to make progress, and where other groups in this country — African Americans and Hispanics — continued to make progress. So what the heck is going on here? We weren’t making progress anymore. That, to us seemed like the bigger story.

Deaton: Anne presented the first paper once and was told, in no uncertain terms: How dare you work on whites.

Case: I was really beaten up.

Deaton: And these were really senior people.

Case: Very senior people.

Read the whole thing there.

• Tags: White Death 

From the Washington Post:

U.S. life expectancy declines for the first time since 1993

By Lenny Bernstein December 8 at 12:01 AM

For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year [2015] — a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States.

Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death.

“I think we should be very concerned,” said Princeton economist Anne Case, who called for thorough research on the increase in deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States. “This is singular. This doesn’t happen.”

A year ago, research by Case and Angus Deaton, also an economist at Princeton, brought worldwide attention to the unexpected jump in mortality rates among white middle-aged Americans. That trend was blamed on what are sometimes called diseases of despair: overdoses, alcoholism and suicide. The new report raises the possibility that major illnesses may be eroding prospects for an even wider group of Americans.

Its findings show increases in “virtually every cause of death. It’s all ages,” said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. “There’s this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States.”

Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data.

1993 had a high death rate due to AIDS, crack, and crack murders.

The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer. …

The report’s lone bright spot was a drop in the death rate from cancer, probably because fewer people are smoking, the disease is being detected earlier and new treatments have been developed recently, experts said.

… Death rates rose for white men, white women and black men. They stayed essentially even for black women and Hispanic men and women. “It’s just confirming this deterioration in survival for certain groups,” said Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. She wonders what factors might be protecting Hispanic men and women from the negative trend.

An alternative way of looking at is that this is still the White Death, but, perhaps, black men got hit hard by black on black homicide in 2015 due to the Ferguson Effect.

Age-adjusted death rates for selected populations. (CDC/NCHS/HHS/NVSS)
According to the new report, males could expect to live 76.3 years at birth last year, down from 76.5 in 2014. Females could expect to live to 81.2 years, down from 81.3 the previous year.

Life expectancy at age 65 did not fall, another indication that the diseases behind the lower life expectancy occur in middle age or younger.

My look at the White Death data last year suggested that there was sharp worsening of age-adjusted death rates for those born in the early 1950s versus those born in the late 1940s. My guess is that people who turned 18 from the end of the 1960s onward were more at risk of heroin or prescription opioid overdoses than those who turned 18 before “White Rabbit.”

The number of unintentional injuries — which include overdoses from drugs, alcohol and other chemicals, as well as motor vehicle crashes and other accidents — climbed to more than 146,000 in 2015 from slightly more than 136,000 in 2014.

Something is going wrong with car crash deaths. What if all the new electronic safety gizmos on cars are causing accidents? (I have no evidence for that, by the way, but somebody ought to look into it.)

Deaths from suicide, the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, rose to 44,193 from 42,773 in 2014.

Not good.

Several experts pointed out that other Western nations are not seeing similar rises in mortality, suggesting an urgency to determine what is unique about health, health care and socioeconomic conditions in the United States.

“Mortality rates in middle age have totally flat­lined in the U.S. for people in their 30s and 40s and 50s, or have been increasing,” Case said. “What we really need to do is find out why we have stopped making progress against heart disease. And I don’t have the answer to that.”

Meara noted that more people need better health care but that “the health-care system is only a part of health.” Income inequality, nutrition differences and lingering unemployment all need to be addressed, she said.

Reminiscent of the Yeltsin years in Russia …

• Tags: White Death 

I coined the term the White Death last year when attention finally turned to a remarkable fall in life expectancy among some white populations due to the lucky coincidence of economist Angus Deaton and his wife publishing a paper on the subject just days after he was awarded the new quasi-Nobel Laureate in economics.

From The Economist:

Screenshot 2016-11-21 19.49.54

Illness as indicator

Local health outcomes predict Trumpward swings
Nov 19th 2016 | NEW YORK | From the print edition

… on November 15th Patrick Ruffini, a well-known pollster, offered a “challenge for data nerds” on Twitter: “Find the variable that can beat % of non-college whites in the electorate as a predictor of county swing to Trump.”

With no shortage of nerds, The Economist has taken Mr Ruffini up on his challenge. Although we could not find a single factor whose explanatory power was greater than that of non-college whites, we did identify a group of them that did so collectively: an index of public-health statistics. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has compiled county-level data on life expectancy and the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heavy drinking and regular physical activity (or lack thereof). Together, these variables explain 43% of Mr Trump’s gains over Mr Romney, just edging out the 41% accounted for by the share of non-college whites (see chart).

The two categories significantly overlap: counties with a large proportion of whites without a degree also tend to fare poorly when it comes to public health. However, even after controlling for race, education, age, sex, income, marital status, immigration and employment, these figures remain highly statistically significant. Holding all other factors constant—including the share of non-college whites—the better physical shape a county’s residents are in, the worse Mr Trump did relative to Mr Romney.

For example, in Knox County, Ohio, just north-east of Columbus, Mr Trump’s margin of victory was 14 percentage points greater than Mr Romney’s. One hundred miles (161 km) to the east, in Jefferson County, the Republican vote share climbed by 30 percentage points. The share of non-college whites in Knox is actually slightly higher than in Jefferson, 82% to 79%. But Knox residents are much healthier: they are 8% less likely to have diabetes, 30% less likely to be heavy drinkers and 21% more likely to be physically active. Holding all else equal, our model finds that those differences account for around a six-percentage-point difference in the change in Republican vote share from 2012.

The data suggest that the ill may have been particularly susceptible to Mr Trump’s message. According to our model, if diabetes were just 7% less prevalent in Michigan, Mr Trump would have gained 0.3 fewer percentage points there, enough to swing the state back to the Democrats. Similarly, if an additional 8% of people in Pennsylvania engaged in regular physical activity, and heavy drinking in Wisconsin were 5% lower, Mrs Clinton would be set to enter the White House. But such counter-factual predictions are always impossible to test. There is no way to rerun the election with healthier voters and compare the results.

The public-health crisis unfolding across white working-class America is hardly a secret.

Well, it was pretty much of a secret until only a year ago.

Last year Angus Deaton, a Nobel-prize-winning economist, found that the death rate among the country’s middle-aged, less-educated white citizens had climbed since the 1990s, even as the rate for Hispanics and blacks of the same age had fallen. Drinking, suicide and a burgeoning epidemic of opioid abuse are widely seen as the most likely causes. Some argue that deteriorating health outcomes are linked to deindustrialisation: higher unemployment rates predict both lower life expectancy and support for Mr Trump, even after controlling for a bevy of demographic variables.

I’m reminded of the horrifying drop in life expectancy in Russia during the Yeltsin years.

Polling data suggests that on the whole, Mr Trump’s supporters are not particularly down on their luck: within any given level of educational attainment, higher-income respondents are more likely to vote Republican. But what the geographic numbers do show is that the specific subset of Mr Trump’s voters that won him the election—those in counties where he outperformed Mr Romney by large margins—live in communities that are literally dying. Even if Mr Trump’s policies are unlikely to alleviate their plight, it is not hard to understand why they voted for change.

In other words, as I’ve pointed out before, Trump voters tended to be civic-minded individuals doing okay themselves, but concerned about the trouble in their overlooked communities.

• Tags: White Death 

From The Guardian:

Is the ‘Ferguson effect’ real? Researcher has second thoughts

‘Some version’ of theory linking protests over police killings to increase in crime may be best explanation for increase in murders in 2015, St Louis criminologist says after deeper analysis of crime trends

Lois Beckett
Friday 13 May 2016 16.23 EDT

For nearly a year, Richard Rosenfeld’s research on crime trends has been used to debunk the existence of a “Ferguson effect”, a suggested link between protests over police killings of black Americans and an increase in crime and murder. Now, the St Louis criminologist says, a deeper analysis of the increase in homicides in 2015 has convinced him that “some version” of the Ferguson effect may be real.

Looking at data from 56 large cities across the country, Rosenfeld found a 17% increase in homicide in 2015. Much of that increase came from only 10 cities, which saw an average 33% increase in homicide.

“These aren’t flukes or blips, this is a real increase,” he said. “It was worrisome. We need to figure out why it happened.”

All 10 cities that saw sudden increases in homicide had large African American populations, he said. While it’s not clear what drove the increases, he said, he believes there is some connection between high-profile protests over police killings of unarmed black men, a further breakdown in black citizens’ trust of the police, and an increase in community violence.

“The only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect,” Rosenfeld said. Now, he said, that’s his “leading hypothesis”.

Other experts have argued that it’s still hard to know whether 2015’s increase in murders was significant, much less what might have caused the trend. The liberal Brennan Center found that increases in homicide last year were localized in only a few cities, and that “community conditions” were likely to blame, rather than “a national pandemic”.

Even if the increase in homicide is significant, there are many competing theories for what may be responsible. The Brennan Center pointed to economic deterioration of struggling neighborhoods. Columnist Shaun King argued last month that the increase in violence in two cities seemed to be caused by police officers “refusing to fully do their jobs”. Local police officials have blamed court system failures, gang dynamics and the proliferation of illegal guns.

Rosenfeld’s new analysis of homicide trends, which was was funded by the Department of Justice, is currently being reviewed by department officials and has not yet been released to the public. A justice department spokeswoman said the paper is expected to be released in July.

Probably at 4:59 PM on July 3rd, kind of like how LBJ released the Coleman Report in 1966.

The question of whether there is any link between protests over police mistreatment of black Americans and an increase in violence in some black neighborhoods has been a political flashpoint for the past year. Conservative writer Heather Mac Donald warned in May 2015 that protests over police behavior would only backfire on black citizens.

“Unless the demonization of law enforcement ends, the liberating gains in urban safety over the past 20 years will be lost,” she wrote. Her op-ed, titled The New Nationwide Crime Wave, sparked a months-long debate.

The Obama administration repeatedly denied that there is any evidence of a “Ferguson effect”, while FBI director James Comey reiterated his suggestion that violent crime was increasing because of “a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year.” Protesters said the conservative focus on the Ferguson effect is an attempt to undermine the movement to reform American policing. …

Comey reignited the debate on Wednesday, telling reporters that the continued increase in violence was a serious problem that national media outlets were choosing to ignore. He said that private conversations with police officials across the country convinced him that “marginal pullbacks by lots and lots of police officers” afraid of being the subject of the next viral video of police misconduct might be contributing to the increase.

“The people dying are almost entirely black and Latino men,” he said. “It’s a complicated, hard issue, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. A whole lot of people are dying. I don’t want to drive around it.”

The White House clashed with Comey last year over his previous comments on policing and crime increases, and the administration has repeatedly pushed back against the idea of a “Ferguson effect”. Obama himself cautioned against trying to “cherry-pick” crime data last year, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that while the idea of the Ferguson effect had been bolstered by anecdotes, “there’s no data to support it”.

Other than that 17% increase in homicides from 2014 to 2015.

Chicago, Obama’s hometown, has seen more than 1,000 shooting incidents so far this year, compared with about 600 incidents during the same period last year. Murders in Chicago are up 56%, with 70 more people murdered so far this year than last year. …

Some protesters and law enforcement leaders criticized Comey for advancing a theory without national data to back it up. …

Serpas cited a series of influential reports from the liberal Brennan Center that found no change in overall crime in 2015 in the nation’s 30 largest cities, and only a slight increase in violent crime.

The Brennan Center analysis did find that the murder rate had increased 13.2% in the nation’s 30 largest cities, but it downplayed this finding. “While this suggests cause for concern in some cities, murder rates vary widely from year to year, and there is little evidence of a national coming wave in violent crime,” the report noted.

Crimes rate have generally been on a downward trend since perhaps the late 1970s, in part because crime doesn’t pay as well anymore. Property crime is way down due to target hardening and other developments in technology: for example, stealing cars was easy in the 1960s, so manufacturers made it harder to steal cars. So thieves switched to stealing car stereos, which were worth less, so those were made harder to steal. Moreover, information technology, such as the GPS location recording systems that everybody carries around with them now, are making a life of crime ever less plausible of a career track.

In other words, crime should be falling a few percent per year.

The three cities that had seen the biggest increases in murder “all seem to have falling populations, higher poverty rates, and higher unemployment than the national average,” the Brennan Center report concluded. “Economic deterioration of these cities could be a contributor to murder increases.”

Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri St Louis and the chair of a National Academy of Sciences roundtable on crime trends, said the Brennan Center’s focus on the economic roots of violence was not enough to explain “why homicide increased as much as it did in these cities in a one-year period”.

“The conclusion one draws from the Brennan Center’s report is, ‘Not much changed,’ and that is simply not true. In the case of homicide, a lot did change, in a very short period of time,” he said.

While “economic disadvantage is an extraordinarily important predictor of the level of homicide in cities,” he said, “there’s no evidence of a one year substantial economic decline in those cities. There have to be other factors involved.”

The idea of a “Ferguson effect” was coined in 2014 by St Louis police chief Samuel Dotson. The same year that Ferguson saw massive protests over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, St Louis saw a 32.5% increase in homicides. “The criminal element is feeling empowered by the environment,” St Louis’s police chief argued, blaming the increase in crime on what he called “the Ferguson effect”, and arguing that the police department needed to hire 180 more officers.

That claim was picked up in May 2015 by Mac Donald, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute which had published a researcher’s 1996 warning about the purported rise of “juvenile super-predators”.

Samuel Sinyangwe, a co-founder of Mapping Police Violence and Campaign Zero, called the conservative focus on the Ferguson effect “a reactionary attempt to undermine the movement”.

“It has been the attempt to put across this narrative that any criticism of the police is dangerous to society,” he said.

That kind of political rhetoric has been used against civil rights advocates in the past. Opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act argued that “civil rights would engender a crime wave”, Yale political scientist Vesla Weaver wrote in an article on how arguments about crime were used to attack and undermine African Americans’ fight for equal rights.

Well, of course, civil rights did engender a crime wave, a giant one that did horrific damage to much of urban America, which got going right about 1964. But who can remember such details when we need to spend all our time remembering the really important history like Emmett Till?

A closer look at many of the statistics Mac Donald used to bolster her thesis showed they did not provide sufficient evidence of a nationwide crime wave, criminologist Frank Zimring argued last year.

When Rosenfeld analyzed St Louis’s crime data, he found the increase in homicides there could not have been caused by a “Ferguson effect”, because the greatest increase came early in the year, months before Michael Brown’s death or the protests that followed.

Rosenfeld’s research was widely cited in articles debunking the Ferguson effect.

But that paper only looked at the evidence for the effect in one city. With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the justice department’s research arm, Rosenfeld did a new study early this year that looked that more broadly at homicide trends in the nation’s 56 largest cities and found an overall 17% increase in homicide.

As a result of that broader national analysis he said, he has had “second thoughts” about the Ferguson effect. “My views have been altered.”

Looking at the additional homicides in large cities, he found that two-thirds of the increase was concentrated in 10 cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington, Nashville, Philadelphia, Kansas City and St Louis.

Those 10 cities had somewhat higher levels of poverty than the other cities he examined. But, he said, the “key difference” was that “their African American population was substantially larger than other large cities”: an average of 41% in those 10 cities, compared with 19.9% in the others.

Separate analyses looked at two of these cities in 2015 and early 2016. A FiveThirtyEight assessment of Chicago crime data concluded that the city’s increase in gun violence was statistically significant, that the spike dated back to the release of the video of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and that it was closely correlated with a drop in police arrests. Researchers in Baltimore found a similar correlation between a drop in arrests and an increase in violence in the wake of protests over Freddie Gray’s death, and concluded that while the Ferguson effect played no role in Baltimore’s rising violence, a “Freddie Gray effect” may have been a significant factor.

Violence has many complex causes, and decades of exhaustive research has shed only partial light. Even the dramatic drop in violence and crime since the early 1990s – the most basic fact about crime in America – is not fully understood.

No, the most basic fact about crime in America, which has almost been completely forgotten by the press, is that crime went way up in the 1960s and 1970s when liberals took charge of race in America.

In trying to understand 2015’s murder trends, Rosenfeld looked for reasons why cities that already struggled with high levels of violence might see “a precipitous and very abrupt increase”.

Rosenfeld considered two potential alternative explanations: the US heroin epidemic, and the number of former inmates returning home from prison. Neither of these explanations quite lined up with the increase in violence, he said. For instance, the country has been in the midst of a heroin epidemic since 2011. Why there would be a four to five year lag before the epidemic caused murders to spike?

Another possibility, however, is that the Mexican cartels peddling heroin in America have topped out on their target market of nonviolent white people — nobody much cared about white people quietly offing themselves — and are now expanding their business by finally dealing with black urban gangs, which they had tried to avoid before.

Mexico’s drug gangs have been insanely violent in Mexico but discreet in America. Sam Quinones got in with one Mexican outfit of heroin dealers in flyover America, the Xalisco Boys, for his book Dreamland and reported:

They are decidedly nonviolent — terrified, in fact, of battles for street corners with armed gangs. They don’t carry guns. They also have rules against selling to African-Americans because, as one dealer put it, “they’ll steal from you, and beat you.”

The Boys started out on the fringes of the drug world in West Coast cities. In the late 1990s, they moved east in search of virgin territory. They avoided New York City, the country’s traditional center of heroin, because the market was already run by entrenched gangs. … They also skipped cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, where black gangs control distribution.

The Xalisco Boys migrated instead to prosperous midsize cities. These cities were predominantly white, but had large Mexican populations where the Boys could blend in. They were the first to open these markets to cheap, potent black-tar heroin in a sustained way. The map of their outposts amounts to a tour through our new heroin hubs: Nashville, Columbus and Charlotte, as well as Salt Lake City, Portland and Denver.

But maybe now the Mexican heroin mobs are dealing with black gangs in places like Baltimore and St. Louis? As we saw with crack a quarter of a century ago or the powder cocaine wars of 1980, when urban black gangs get a hot drug, they tend to shoot each other in large numbers in turf wars.

On the other hand, this heroin idea is mostly pure speculation on my part. It goes back to my 1999 debate with economist Steven “Freakonomics” Levitt in Slate when he asked when I figured murder rates would go back up again. I said: eventually there will be a new drug.

But the government’s strategy has been more sophisticated than I anticipated in 1999. Crack was so apocalyptic that the government seems to have been following a multimodal drug war strategy that has been pretty effective:

- Come down extremely hard with imprisonment on drugs that make people more violent, like cocaine.

- Err on the side of downer drugs that make people more passive, like heroin

- Err on the side of abuse of legal drugs, like prescription painkillers

- Err on the side of a multiplicity of drugs so that we don’t get back to a situation like crack cocaine in 1990 or powder cocaine in 1980.

So in the 21st Century the government eased up on prescription painkillers. But so many people started getting addicted and overdosing that it eventually tightened up, which gave an opening to Mexican heroin dealers. That has turned out to be such a disaster that white life expectancy actually declined in the latest statistics.

Mexican heroin dealers were cautious about staying in flyover country that nobody cares about and avoiding big cities with their violent drug gangs and media presence that made Miami world famous (except to economists) in the Scarface / Miami Vice era. In contrast to the glamorous Miami powder cocaine boom of 1980 and the West Coast / East Coast gangsta rap-fueled crack cocaine boom of 1988-1994, the Mexican / redneck heroin bubble of the 2010s has been pretty dismal and downscale, so almost nobody paid attention to it.

We’ll see what happens next.


From the NYT:

Murder Rates Jump in Many Major U.S. Cities, New Data Shows

WASHINGTON — More than 20 major cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, have seen large increases in murders in recent months, a spike that the director of the F.B.I. linked to less aggressive policing stemming from a “viral video effect.”

The new data released Friday showed clashing trend lines across the country, with many cities seeing a sharp increase in murders while rates in others — including New York and Miami — were down significantly from last year.

Unfortunately, I can’t yet find this data online.

Update: Commenter Drake found it here.

After receiving an advance look at the data, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey Jr., expressed alarm Wednesday about the spike in murders in some major cities. Reigniting the debate over a “Ferguson effect,” he told reporters that he believed the trend could be linked to a “viral video effect” because officers were being less aggressive for fear of ending up on videos.

The White House distanced itself from Mr. Comey on the issue, named after Ferguson, Mo., where the 2014 shooting of an unarmed black man set off protests and rioting.

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, told reporters Thursday that “there still is no evidence to substantiate the claim that the increase in violent crime is related to an unwillingness of police officers to do their job.”

Mr. Earnest said the president saw a false choice in any notion that police officers must decide between fighting crime and doing so in a fair way.

The White House and the F.B.I. clashed over the issue last fall as well, when Mr. Comey made similar remarks about anecdotal reports he was receiving about less aggressive policing. He indicated that the latest data — which came from polling of more than 60 cities by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association — left him even more concerned about some officers backing off from confronting suspects.

The Washington Post found an increase across the 50 biggest cities in homicides from 2014 to 2015 of over 16 percent. That’s a big change for one year. And that’s not including St. Louis (Greater Ferguson), which isn’t big enough to make the top 50.

Another thing that might be going on is that the Mexican heroin dealers have started pushing smack in the big cities, stirring up the black gangs. Sam Quinones’s book Dreamland reported that about a half decade ago, Mexican heroin dealers were concentrating on selling heroin in white rural areas because nobody important in America much cares about white hillbillies quietly dying of overdoses (you’ll notice that nobody talked about the White Death in the media until the new Nobel Economics laureate Angus Deaton brought it up right after he won his award). But, according to Quinones, back then Mexican heroin retailers considered African Americans to be hotheaded and violent and thus to be avoided.

But that kind of prudence among foreign drug dealers can seldom last, and now Mexican heroin is spreading to black ghettos, with predictable results in terms of blacks shooting blacks:

From the NYT last month:

Crime Spike in St. Louis Traced to Cheap Heroin and Mexican Cartels

… The death of Ms. Walker was linked by the authorities to a violent St. Louis street gang with ties to a Mexican drug cartel that in the past has supplied marijuana and cocaine throughout the Midwest. In recent years, however, Mexican traffickers have inundated the St. Louis area with a new, potent form of heroin, drastically reducing prices for the drug and increasing its strength to attract suburban users.

The dispersal of the cheap heroin has led to a surge in overdoses, addiction and violence in cities across the country.

Besides St. Louis — where the problem is particularly acute — Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Philadelphia have attributed recent spikes in homicides in part to an increase in the trafficking of low-cost heroin by Mexican cartels working with local gangs.

“The gangs have to have a lot of customers because the heroin is so cheap,” said Gary Tuggle, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief in Philadelphia, who observed the same phenomenon while overseeing the agency’s Baltimore office. ”What we are seeing is these crews becoming more violent as they look to expand their turf.” …

In a trend mimicked in large cities nationally, many of the heroin consumers in St. Louis are young whites in their 20s, who drive into the city from suburbs and distant rural areas, the police say. And while most heroin overdose victims here are white, nearly all of the shooting victims and suspects in St. Louis this year have been African-American men and boys, police data shows.

“What I’m seeing at street level are violent disputes about money owed around heroin debts, with sometimes the dispute being about money, and sometimes about drugs,” said D. Samuel Dotson III, the police chief of St. Louis.

In 2014, St. Louis had the highest homicide rate of any city with more than 100,000 people.

Ferguson started in August 2014 and impacted policing across the St. Louis area.

Its 157 homicides that year increased by 18 percent in 2015 to 188, and while the rate has slowed in the initial months of this year, St. Louis is again on pace to be among the nation’s most dangerous big cities.


Gary Venter: “A Quick Look at Cohort Effects in US Male Mortality”

Via Andrew Gelman, here’s a graph highlighting changes in male American mortality (all races) by year of birth. It shows a spectacular spike among later baby boomers in mortality.

I’ve been pointing out since November that the spike in increases in deaths by (especially) drug overdose, suicide, and alcoholism seem to be centered in whites who turned 18 in the late 1960s through the early 1980s: i.e., the long Sixties. I may be totally overlooking something, but it makes sense to me that your odds of dying of a heroin overdose in the 2000s are related to how many people you knew who were into drugs when you graduated from high school.

In contrast, the lucky duckies born in 1946 turned 18 in pre-Sixties 1964, which was a few years before the Drug Era really hit home across America.

Say you are a middle-aged man who has had a bad back for a long time. You got hooked pretty heavily on prescription painkillers so your doctor has finally cut you off. But now the pain is back. If you graduated from high school in 1964, you probably don’t have many friends your age who knew back then where to buy drugs. It would be kind of embarrassing to start randomly asking your old high school buddies about where to get heroin.

But if you graduated in 1975, you’d know a bunch of people from high school who, if they are still alive, know about drugs and might clue you in to where to get heroin.

• Tags: White Death 

We can ask this question about life expectancy first for people in the bottom quarter of the income distribution and then for people in the top quarter of affluence.

According to Stanford economist Raj Chetty’s paper, the poor live longest where there is massive economic inequality, lots and lots of cops, and unaffordable housing: e.g., New York City. Health care access doesn’t much matter to the poor’s life expectancy. Social conservatism and social capital doesn’t matter either. In other words, the poor appear to do best in some kind of plutocratic Giuliani-ville. Ayn Rand would feel vindicated (if she cared about the poor).

(I don’t actually believe this is true in terms of policy advice: I think Chetty’s result may well be an artifact of churn of his populations: healthy young poor immigrants move to ultra-expensive cities like NYC until they are used up, at which point they leave for some place cheaper.)

In contrast, the top quarter of income Americans live longest in economically more equal and socially conservative places, with broad health care access, fewer immigrants, and non-supercharged economies: kind of like Denmark.

From Raj Chetty’s new paper based on your confidential tax returns, The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014, here are the correlations between life expectancies for people in the bottom 25% of national income on their 1040s and various characteristics of their “commuting zones” (e.g. extra-large metro areas). The highest life expectancy metro for people in the bottom quarter of income is New York, followed by Santa Barbara, San Jose (Silicon Valley), Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. In other words, the poor live longest in super expensive cities with lots of rich people, lots of economic inequality, and lots of cops.

The shortest life expectancy metros for bottom quartile individuals are Gary, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Tulsa, and Detroit.

For example, unsurprisingly, there’s a strong negative correlation between the % of residents who smoke and the life expectancy of lower income residents. (Keep in mind, though, that these are not individual-level correlations. Chetty has individual-level data from 1040s on income and whether or not the individual died in the last year. He doesn’t have data on whether the individual taxpayer smokes, is obese, exercises, or what not. So, he’s correlating individual level data on income and age at death with local averages, such as smoking.)

Screenshot 2016-04-11 16.53.07

In summary, local customs regarding health behaviors (smoking, obesity, exercise) are very important for the poor’s life expectancy. Measures of access to health care don’t correlate well with life expectancy.

Income inequality and income segregation by neighborhood are modestly good for the life expectancy of poor people.

Prosperity and population growth aren’t very important.

The unimportance of the % Black Adults figure is an artifact of Chetty presenting to us race/ethnicity adjusted figures. Blacks have shorter life expectancies than, say, Asians, but Chetty has already adjusted life expectancy in each metro area for its racial makeup. (But there are racial interaction effects that he’s missing, which drive some of his outliers.)

Black life expectancy, fortunately, has been improving since NWA broke up, with fewer black on black homicides and fewer deaths from AIDS. Asian life expectancy is expectedly high, while Mexican life expectancy is unexpectedly high. White and American Indian life expectancy has been doing poorly in this century, especially working class and/or Scots-Irish whites.

The Other Factors section at the bottom give away what’s going on in driving local areas’ life expectancies among bottom quartile income individuals. Places with high median home values, which correlate with having lots of college graduates, attract lots of immigrants who come to work hard for the relatively high wages available to people willing to sacrifice living space or short commutes for some period of years. These “sojourners” tend to be healthy and live a long time. Like the man said, if they can make it there they can make it anywhere.

If they can’t make it in an ultra-expensive city, such as because they are in poor health, they tend to leave for some place cheaper. Less expensive cities tend to fill up with people either shed from expensive cities or daunted from even trying.

That’s one reason the Charles Murray / Robert D. Putnam community virtues don’t matter much in this graph: poor people appear to live longer if there is a lot of dynamic churn in the economy, which disrupts community social capital and makes life more economically unequal.

But, we don’t know if that’s a genuine treatment effect or if it’s just an artifact of churn in the population: if somebody moves from Mexico to New York City and sleeps in a bunk bed while hustling at two busboy jobs, they’re probably in vigorous health. But if their health breaks down in NYC and they move to relatively short-lived San Antonio for an easier life, where they die early there, how does Chetty count that?

In contrast, for people in the upper quarter of the national income distribution, the contributory factors for longer life expectancies (other than smoking, obesity, and exercise work) work quite differently.

The longest lived people in the top quarter of income (already adjusted for race) are found in the region around tee-totaling Salt Lake City (no surprise), hardy Portland in Maine, Spokane, Santa Barbara, Denver, Minneapolis, and quite Dutch Grand Rapids: the more conservative part of a Stuff White People Like list of places to live.

For the well-to-do, the worst life expectancy cities are Las Vegas, which you’ll be Leaving a half year earlier than anywhere else, Gary, Honolulu, Brownsville, El Paso, Bakersfield, Miami, Lakeland in FL, and Los Angeles: very Stuff White People Don’t Like.

Screenshot 2016-04-11 17.26.08

So, looking at correlations, a culture of non-smoking, non-obese, and exercise helps the affluent as well as the poor.

After that however, things diverge: Health care access measures matter more for affluent than the poor, paradoxically.

The well to do benefit health-wise from Murray-Putnam socially conservative social capital and greater economic equality. The well to do don’t last long in boom towns. Having a lot of immigrants around isn’t good for the upper quarter, but having a lot of college graduates around is good.

In other words, white people tend to do best in the more unfashionable SWPL places like Salt Lake City and the other Portland. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising.


The New York Times’ “Upshot” section has a long-running arrangement with economist Raj Chetty (who recently moved from Harvard to Stanford) to publicize his research on a vast trove of otherwise confidential IRS 1040 data without emphasizing the politically incorrect implications of his research.

Chetty has now posted a new paper on life expectancies by income across the country. The NYT reports on it:

The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters.


For poor Americans, the place they call home can be a matter of life or death.

The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.

In those differences, documented in sweeping new research, lies an optimistic message: The right mix of steps to improve habits and public health could help people live longer, regardless of how much money they make.

One conclusion from this work, published on Monday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is that the gap in life spans between rich and poor widened from 2001 to 2014. The top 1 percent in income among American men live 15 years longer than the poorest 1 percent; for women, the gap is 10 years. These rich Americans have gained three years of longevity just in this century. They live longer almost without regard to where they live. Poor Americans had very little gain as a whole, with big differences among different places. …

“You want to think about this problem at a more local level than you might have before,” said Raj Chetty, a Stanford economist who is the study’s lead author.

“You don’t want to just think about why things are going badly for the poor in America. You want to think specifically about why they’re going poorly in Tulsa and Detroit,” he said, naming two cities with the lowest levels of life expectancy among low-income residents. …

It may be good to know that poor Americans are living a lot longer in some places than in others, but it would be better to know — in terms of specific policy prescriptions — how the places with better results are doing it.

Unfortunately, Chetty doesn’t actually know much about different parts of the country, and he seldom demonstrates much insight into how his methodology interacts with local conditions. Another big problem is that Chetty’s social engineering ambitions drive him toward over-implying that local policies drive geographic differences, when it’s pretty obvious that selection factors, such as race, are more important.

Chetty’s new paper is pretty interesting, particularly in how it rejects conventional liberal wisdom. Chetty writes:

Correlational analysis of the differences in life expectancy across geographic areas did not provide strong support for 4 leading explanations for socioeconomic differences in longevity: differences in access to medical care (as measured by health insurance coverage and proxies for the quality and quantity of primary care), environmental differences (as measured by residential segregation), adverse effects of inequality (as measured by Gini indices), and labor market conditions (as measured by unemployment rates). Rather, most of the variation in life expectancy across areas was related to differences in health behaviors, including smoking, obesity, and exercise. 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. …

Theories positing that differences in mortality are driven by the physical environment (eg, exposure to air pollution or a lack of access to healthy food) suggest that the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor individuals should be larger in more residentially segregated cities. Empirically, in areas where rich and poor individuals are more residentially segregated, differences in life expectancy between individuals in the top and bottom income quartile were smaller (r = −0.23, P = .09). Individuals in the bottom income quartile who lived in more segregated commuting zones had higher levels of life expectancy (r = 0.26, P = .04). …

As I pointed out last year in my long critical analysis of Chetty’s work, Moneyball for Real Estate, looking at the extremes of Chetty’s rankings are a good way to figure out for yourself what’s going on.

In the latest, places with long life expectancy for poor people tend to be extremely high cost of living cities, with New York #1 and Santa Barbara #2. Here’s his top ten “commuting zones” for long life expectancy among people who tell the IRS on their 1040s that they are in the bottom 25% of income.

Screenshot 2016-04-11 02.41.37

Why do low income people have long life expectancies in extremely unwelcoming cities like New York?

The NYT flails about trying to explain the pattern:

A common thread among many of the places with a smaller longevity gap was population density, with wealthy cities leading the way. New York has a high rate of social spending for low-income residents and has been aggressive in regulating trans fats and smoking.

But, as a frequent (and highly observant) visitor explained about New York in 1978:

New York and coastal California shed poor people who aren’t tough, tough, tough, tough, tough. (Plus, these look like a list of cities where a lot of income is off the books for tax purposes.)

In contrast, the top life expectancy cities for people in the top quarter of the income range look like Moynihan’s Law of the Canadian Border again, a bunch of cool weather and/or outdoor paradise cities:

Screenshot 2016-04-11 03.05.18

And I wouldn’t be surprised if these were pretty honest towns where there is less income tax evasion.

The lowest life expectancy for the affluent is Las Vegas, which isn’t surprising. Way back in the 1970s, George Gilder liked to point out how different Utah and Nevada were in lifestyle.

Los Angeles has long life expectancy for its (mostly Mexican or Asian immigrant) poor, and short life expectancy for its affluent.

Angus Deaton, the latest Nobel Economics laureate, who kicked off the awareness of the White Death last fall, offers a technical critique here.

Then there are changes in life expectancy by “commuting zone” from 2001 to 2014:

Mr. Cutler, the Harvard economist, argues that the new research should serve as a jumping-off point.

“Why is it that Birmingham has done well but Tulsa has done poorly?” he said.

Probably little in terms of policy. The differences between Birmingham in Alabama and Tulsa and Oklahoma probably have more to do with overall racial trends in lifespans. The 21st Century has been good for the life expectancy of blacks, who aren’t murdering each other or killing each other with AIDS as much as they were 25 years ago. And the life expectancy of Mexicans has long been phenomenally high for their incomes and obesity levels. These days, Mexicans don’t shoot heroin, as Sam Quinones documents in Dreamland, they sell it.

In contrast, this has been a bad century for the life expectancies of working class whites, especially Scots-Irish, and American Indians. Birmingham has lots of blacks, while metro Tulsa has lots of Scots-Irish and as many American Indians as blacks.

The IRS gives Chetty 1040 data that has been (hopefully) anonymized, with no race data. Chetty attempts to adjust for the racial makeup of the region.

But I suspect he doesn’t have a good handle on the interaction effects of racial percentages and income.

In ultra-expensive Santa Barbara, for example, people in the bottom quarter of the national reported income distribution are probably either Latino service workers who are likely to leave for some place cheaper (such as Mexico) if they suffer a health setback, waitresses who aren’t reporting all their tips, or trust funders who are most in danger of death from being eaten by a Great White Shark while surfing.

• Tags: Chetty, White Death 

From the NYT:

Screenshot 2016-02-22 16.40.31 By ANDREW J. CHERLIN FEB. 22, 2016 315 COMMENTS

IT’S disturbing and puzzling news: Death rates are rising for white, less-educated Americans. …

Both studies attributed the higher death rates to increases in poisonings and chronic liver disease, which mainly reflect drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, and to suicides. In contrast, death rates fell overall for blacks and Hispanics.

Why are whites overdosing or drinking themselves to death at higher rates than African-Americans and Hispanics in similar circumstances? Some observers have suggested that higher rates of chronic opioid prescriptions could be involved, along with whites’ greater pessimism about their finances.

Yet I’d like to propose a different answer: what social scientists call reference group theory. The term “reference group” was pioneered by the social psychologist Herbert H. Hyman in 1942, and the theory was developed by the Columbia sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s. It tells us that to comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves.

How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

And here is one solution to the death-rate conundrum: It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities.

Perhaps, although the death rate among youngish blacks was sky-high around 1990, due to shooting each other over crack and dying of AIDS, which is hard to fit in with Cherlin’s economic generational theory. I’m not saying Cherlin’s wrong, just that specific causes of people dropping dead rather than theories of a general malaise also need to be looked at.

The general malaise idea would fit in with phenomena we’ve seen in other times and places, such as the sharp decline in male life expectancy in Russia with the breakup of Communism, or the ongoing problems on Indian reservations. These are more than just economic problems but extend to a sense of defeatedness. But we shouldn’t immediately leap to a Big Picture explanation if Small Picture explanations are more conducive to fixing the problems.

When whites without college degrees look back, they can often remember fathers who were sustained by the booming industrial economy of postwar America. Since then, however, the industrial job market has slowed significantly. The hourly wages of male high school graduates declined by 14 percent from 1973 to 2012, according to analysis of data from the Economic Policy Institute. Although high school educated white women haven’t experienced the same major reversal of the job market, they may look at their husbands — or, if they are single, to the men they choose not to marry — and reason that life was better when they were growing up.

African-Americans, however, didn’t get a fair share of the blue-collar prosperity of the postwar period. They may look back to a time when discrimination deprived their parents of equal opportunities. Many Hispanics may look back to the lower standard of living their parents experienced in their countries of origin. Whites are likely to compare themselves to a reference group that leads them to feel worse off. Blacks and Hispanics compare themselves to reference groups that may make them feel better off.

The sociologist Timothy Nelson and I observed this phenomenon in interviews with high-school-educated young adult men in 2012 and 2013. A 35-year-old white man who did construction jobs said, “It’s much harder for me as a grown man than it was for my father.” He remembered his father saying that back when he was 35, “‘I had a house and I had five kids or four kids.’ You know, ‘Look where I was at.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, Dad, things have changed.’”

African-American men were more upbeat. One said: “I think there are better opportunities now because first of all, the economy’s changing. The color barrier is not as harsh as it was back then.”

This is a good example of how these days you’re not supposed to remember how long ago the Civil Rights Era was. A 35 year old man in 2013 would have been born in about 1978 and have memories of growing up from about 1982. The color barrier was not all that harsh in the 1980s, but critical thinking about history using arithmetic to figure out how long ago things happened isn’t fashionable.

In addition, national surveys show striking racial and ethnic differences in satisfaction with one’s social standing relative to one’s parents. The General Social Survey conducted by the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago has asked Americans in its biennial surveys to compare their standard of living to that of their parents. In 2014, according to my analysis, among 25- to 54-year-olds without college degrees, blacks and Hispanics were much more positive than whites: 67 percent of African-Americans and 68 percent of Hispanics responded “much better” or “somewhat better,” compared with 47 percent of whites.

Those figures represent a reversal from 2000, when whites were more positive than blacks, 64 percent to 60 percent. (Hispanics were the most positive in nearly all years.)

But we size ourselves up based on more than just our parents. White workers historically have compared themselves against black workers, taking some comfort in seeing a group that was doing worse than them. Now, however, the decline of racial restrictions in the labor market and the spread of affirmative action have changed that. Non-college-graduate whites in the General Social Survey are more likely to agree that “conditions for black people have improved” than are comparable blacks themselves, 68 percent to 53 percent.

Reference group theory explains why people who have more may feel that they have less. What matters is to whom you are comparing yourself. It’s not that white workers are doing worse than African-Americans or Hispanics.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the median weekly earnings of white men aged 25 to 54 were $950, well above the same figure for black men ($703) and Hispanic men ($701). But for some whites — perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate — that may be beside the point. Their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.

Andrew J. Cherlin is a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America.”

This is not to say that this model is wrong. But in thinking about the White Death, I’ve been encouraging a multiplicity of hypotheses rather than risk settling onto a single model too soon.

So, here’s another model: the White Death is less demand-driven, more supply-driven by innovations in first, providing pain pills, then in Mexican black tar heroin gangs marketing at the retail level to whites in obscure parts of the country.

Former L.A. Times reporter Sam Quinones has a book out called Dreamland on his reporting in places like southern Ohio. He argues that once the liberalization of opioid prescriptions in the early 2000s started getting more people hooked on legal pain pills, attempts to crack down on them played into the hands of a new model of Mexican heroin retailing. Last April, Quinones explained in the NYT:

Most of our heroin now comes not from Asia, but from Latin America, particularly Mexico, where poppies grow well in the mountains along the Pacific Coast. …

The most important traffickers in this story hail from Xalisco, a county of 49,000 people near the Pacific Coast. They have devised a system for selling heroin across the United States that resembles pizza delivery.

Dealers circulate a number around town. An addict calls, and an operator directs him to an intersection or a parking lot. The operator dispatches a driver, who tools around town, his mouth full of tiny balloons of heroin, with a bottle of water nearby to swig them down with if cops stop him. (“It’s amazing how many balloons you can learn to carry in your mouth,” said one dealer, who told me he could fit more than 30.)

The driver meets the addict, spits out the required balloons, takes the money and that’s that. It happens every day — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., because these guys keep business hours.

The Xalisco Boys, as one cop I know has nicknamed them, are far from our only heroin traffickers. But they may be our most prolific. As relentless as Amway salesmen, they embody our new drug-plague paradigm.

Xalisco dealers are low profile — the anti-Scarface. Back home they are bakers, butchers and farm workers, part of a vast labor pool in Xalisco and surrounding towns, who hire on as heroin drivers for $300 to $500 a week. The drug trade offers them a shot at their own business, or simply a chance to make some money to show off back home — kings until the cash goes. Meanwhile, in the United States, they drive old cars with their cheeks packed like chipmunks’, and dress like the day workers in front of your Home Depot.

The heroin delivery system appeals to them mainly because there is no cartel kingpin, no jefe máximo. It is meritocratic — so unlike Mexico. They are “people acting as individuals who are doing it on their own: micro-entrepreneurs,” said one phone operator for a crew who I interviewed while he was in prison. They are “looking for places where there’s no people, no competition,” he said. “Anyone can be boss of a network.” Thus the system distills what appeals to immigrants generally about America: It is a way to translate wits and hard work into real economic gain. …

They are decidedly nonviolent — terrified, in fact, of battles for street corners with armed gangs. They don’t carry guns. They also have rules against selling to African-Americans because, as one dealer put it, “they’ll steal from you, and beat you.”

The Boys started out on the fringes of the drug world in West Coast cities. In the late 1990s, they moved east in search of virgin territory. They avoided New York City, the country’s traditional center of heroin, because the market was already run by entrenched gangs. … They also skipped cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, where black gangs control distribution.

The Xalisco Boys migrated instead to prosperous midsize cities. These cities were predominantly white, but had large Mexican populations where the Boys could blend in. They were the first to open these markets to cheap, potent black-tar heroin in a sustained way. The map of their outposts amounts to a tour through our new heroin hubs: Nashville, Columbus and Charlotte, as well as Salt Lake City, Portland and Denver.

THEY arrived in the Midwest just as a revolution in American medicine was underway, and an epidemic of pain-pill abuse was spreading over that region.

I’m reminded of Walmart’s strategy in the 1960s through the 1980s of avoiding obviously appealing but highly competitive retail markets like Southern California in favor of obscure, unfashionable locales underserved by metropolitan-oriented retailers.

This might help explain certain anomalies in where the White Death is bad (Appalachia) and not bad (Northern Plains). It could be that the Northern Plains haven’t succumbed as badly due to the more prosperous economy there. On the other hand, it could be that the Mexican retailers just haven’t expanded there yet.

• Tags: White Death 

This Super Bowl Rocket Mortgage commercial seemed to be aimed at regulators and politicians as much as borrowers. It was vaguely reminiscent of George W. Bush’s speech at the 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership and Angelo Mozilo’s 2003 Harvard address about how Bush’s regulators should get the message that old-fashioned standards on down payments and documentation are old-fashioned downers.

Still, it was interesting that 13-years ago, Bush and Mozilo played the race card a lot harder in arguing for hog-wild lending as necessary for racial equality, while this time Quicken used old postwar Keynesian “Good for the Economy” rhetoric in arguing for 8-minute mortgages.

On the other hand: the fact that a side effect of the White Death is constipation didn’t seem to cause the makers of a pill for opioid-induced constipation any worries about political reaction:


More on the White Death:

Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites



Drug overdoses are driving up the death rate of young white adults in the United States to levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic more than two decades ago — a turn of fortune that stands in sharp contrast to falling death rates for young blacks, a New York Times analysis of death certificates has found.

The rising death rates for those young white adults, ages 25 to 34, make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it.

The Times analyzed nearly 60 million death certificates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1990 to 2014. It found death rates for non-Hispanic whites either rising or flattening for all the adult age groups under 65 — a trend that was particularly pronounced in women — even as medical advances sharply reduce deaths from traditional killers like heart disease. Death rates for blacks and most Hispanic groups continued to fall.

The analysis shows that the rise in white mortality extends well beyond the 45- to 54-year-old age group documented by a pair of Princeton economists in a research paper that startled policy makers and politicians two months ago.

While the death rate among young whites rose for every age group over the five years before 2014, it rose faster by any measure for the less educated, by 23 percent for those without a high school education, compared with only 4 percent for those with a college degree or more.

The drug overdose numbers were stark. In 2014, the overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999, and the rate for 35- to 44-year-old whites tripled during that period. The numbers cover both illegal and prescription drugs. …

There is a reason that blacks appear to have been spared the worst of the narcotic epidemic, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a drug abuse expert. Studies have found that doctors are much more reluctant to prescribe painkillers to minority patients, worrying that they might sell them or become addicted.

“The answer is that racial stereotypes are protecting these patients from the addiction epidemic,” said Dr. Kolodny, a senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and chief medical officer for Phoenix House Foundation, a national drug and alcohol treatment company. …

Researchers are struggling to come up with an answer to the question of why whites in particular are doing so poorly. No one has a clear answer, but researchers repeatedly speculate that the nation is seeing a cohort of whites who are isolated and left out of the economy and society and who have gotten ready access to cheap heroin and to prescription narcotic drugs.

“There are large numbers of people who never get established in the economy, who live outside family relationships and are on the edge of poverty,” Dr. Hayward said. Many end up taking prescription narcotics, he added.

“Poverty and stress, for example, are risk factors for misuse of prescription narcotics,” Dr. Hayward said.

Eileen Crimmins, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, said the causes of death in these younger people were largely social — “violence and drinking and taking drugs.” Her research shows that social problems are concentrated in the lower education group.

“For too many, and especially for too many women,” she said, “they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have jobs, they have children they can’t feed and clothe, and they have no support network.”

• Tags: White Death 

Via Marginal Revolution, Robert VerBruggen at RealClearPolicy has an interesting graph of total death rates showing the White Death from drug overdoses (blue line).

But most striking to me is the red line showing motor vehicle deaths. I would have expected motor vehicle deaths to be steadily declining as technology improves, with a modest speeding up of the decline when high gasoline prices depress miles driven, as in 2008. But the pattern is much more exaggerated than I expected, with road deaths having been relatively flat during economic good times, but then dropping off a cliff along with the housing bubble.

Here are the motor vehicle deaths per year before, during, and after the housing collapse.

2005 43667 +0.5%
2006 43664 -0.1%
2007 42031 -3.7%
2008 37985 -9.6%
2009 34485 -9.2%
2010 33687 -2.3%
2011 33783 +0.3%

Miles driven was down slightly in 2008 when gas prices spiked, but hardly as much as the death rate, which fell 18.0% from 2007 to 2009.

Here’s a graph of deaths per miles driven over the last century. The overall trend is down down down — after all, getting killed in a car crash is a very bad thing so a lot of effort has been expended against it. You can see an upturn in the death rate per mile driven during the first years of the Depression and sometimes during the first half of the 1940s — my guess would be that old tires and old brakes were the leading causes, although that’s just speculation.

If you squint really hard you can see the sudden improvement in safety per mile driven in 2007 through 2010, centered in 2008.

Was there some policy change that kicked in sharply during those years?

A lot of things have changed. For example, it’s quite a bit harder for teens to pass the driver’s test now than when I breezed through it in slapdash 1975. Drunk driving is taken more seriously. Cars have gotten significantly safer. But I don’t know when those long term trends had their most significant impact.

Perhaps all the heavyweight new vehicles sold in the mid-2000s during the housing bubble, which tended to be massive SUVs and larger sedans, made the public safer?

Or did the decline in Keynes’ “animal spirits” with the popping of the housing bubble also make people more restrained drivers? Perhaps the marginal miles driven are the most dangerous ones because good times economically correlate with good times in terms of drunk driving?

Update: several commenters suggest the collapse of housing construction in 2007-2008 cut miles driven (including drunkenly) by illegal alien Mexican construction workers: first they ran out of money for cerveza, then money for gas, then they went home to Mexico. That hypothesis could be tested by looking at road deaths by states and seeing if declines correlate with fall offs in home construction.

And here’s a personal question for commenters. Eventually, I’m going to have to replace my 17 year old and 14 year old vehicles, and I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount for safety. But is there a consensus yet on what has proven worthwhile among 21st Century technical innovations?

Some long term trends, such as more air bags, have become standard. The 2016 Toyota Camry, for example, comes standard with ten airbags.

But there have also been a fair number of high tech safety innovations introduced in recent years, such as backup cameras, lane drift sensors, and forward brake warning systems, typically offered in the past as options on luxury sedans and SUVs. They’re becoming more affordable.

Yet, I don’t have a good sense of which ones have proven cost-effective. Is there a consensus yet on which safety innovations are worth the money versus which ones are expensive distractions? I’m especially worried about paying for innovations that would actually make me a worse driver by focusing my attention on the wrong signals.

• Tags: White Death 

Screenshot 2015-11-17 18.30.58

West Virginia has long been notorious as the worst white state in the country, and the recent White Death has hit West Virginia whites harder than any other state’s whites, with death rates among whites 45-54 years old increasing 41% from 1999-2013.

Ohio isn’t as badly off as West Virginia, but the middle-aged death rate was up 20%, worse than the national average.

Pennsylvania’s White Death rate, however, was up only 4%.

I get a vague impression that Pennsylvania has been in general pulling ahead of Ohio in this century.

One reason is because Philadelphia, for all its problems, is still a giant east coast city. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh seems to have repositioned itself rather nicely to serve as a regional hub for things like medical care.

Another reason is that Pennsylvania had better mortgage regulations than more laissez-faire Ohio, so it sidestepped the worst of the subprime grift.

Also Pennsylvania has pockets of oil and natural gas that only recently became profitable to pump from again due to innovations in technology.

I’m reading reporter Sam Quinones’ book on the spread of painkillers and heroin, Dreamland, and much of that is set in southern Ohio. I don’t know, however, why this quiet plague doesn’t seem to have hit Pennsylvania all that hard.

Is there a cultural difference with Pennsylvania (more Central European Catholics) and West Virginia (more Scots-Irish)?

But I don’t really know what else is going on.

• Tags: White Death 

White Death by State2

Blogger Sendil has kindly sent along a table he or she made from Center for Disease Control data on the change in death rates among whites (both sexes) age 45-54 by state between 1999 and 2013.

It looks like it correlates with white drugs (opioids, meth), obesity, smoking, and low real estate prices (i.e., expensive states shed drug addicts who can’t make the rent — but also demand goes up in states with fewer of these kind of problems). It’s pretty much Fishtown versus Belmont, to use Charles Murray’s names from his 2012 book Coming Apart.

Interestingly, Murray tweeted recently that while writing his book about working class whites falling apart, it didn’t occur to him to check whether they were dying at a higher rate.

One thing to keep in mind is that death rates in these younger age ranges are pretty low, so they can be bounced around by specific causes such as, say, painkiller deregulation and enterprising Mexican heroin cartels.

Still, it’s pretty depressing …

Notes: Minnesota had the second lowest middle aged white death rates in 1999 and it’s now lowest in 2013.

North Dakota used to have the lowest death rate, but it went up 32% as energy prosperity arrived. It’s still pretty low.

South Dakota’s death rate went down.

Colorado is missing from the table. It’s likely a quite healthy state.

Nevada used to have the highest white death rate, but it fell to 8th as the Las Vegas lifestyle spread nationally.

Ohio and Pennsylvania continue to diverge, with the death rate in Ohio up 20% v. only up 4% in Pennsylvania.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: White Death 

Screenshot 2015-11-11 17.24.29

I know The White Death isn’t as fun to talk about as, say, the KKK Invasion hysteria that swept the U. of Missouri yesterday, but it is a matter of life and death. Above are Andrew Gelman’s graphs showing death rate trend lines for white women (pink) and white men (blue)* from 1999 to 2013 for each year of age.

To summarize the single year of age graphs for white women:

– For each year of age from 35 to 52, the death rate is higher in 2013 than in 1999.

– Then, ages 53 to 56 are a transition zone with little change in the death rate from 1999 to 2013.

– Finally, ages 57 to 64 show lower death rates in 2013 than in 1999.

- Professor Gelman didn’t graph ages younger than 35, but a blogger named Sendil has found evidence for a sizable increase among whites 25-34 (both sexes together).

In contrast:

- Death rates for both Hispanic women and black women declined in every single age from 35 to 64.

What about men?

- There was a spike in the early 2000s in death rates for white men ages 36 to 52. Opiates? Meth? Vioxx? Viagra?

- But for death rates for 2013 v. 1999 for white men, the picture is mixed: death rates are up for 35 to 37 year olds, down for 38 to 46 year olds, flat for 47-49 year olds, up for 50-52 year olds, flat/mixed for 53 to 56 year olds, and down for 57-64 year olds.

- In contrast, death rates are lower in 2013 than in 1999 for every single age of both Hispanic men and black men.

I don’t know what implications should be taken from these patterns, but perhaps somebody can come up with some good hypotheses.

By the way, it might be useful to replot these graphs with the birth year along the horizontal axis in order to quickly eyeball-test hypotheses about generational change affecting white people when they are older. For example, the Age 35 graph could be transfigured by changing the year 2000 to 1965 (i.e., people who were 35 in 2000 were more or less born in 1965), the year 2005 to 1970 and the year 2010 to 1975. (Alternatively, the ages at which each group turned, say, 18 could be on the horizontal axis instead: 1983, 1988, and 1993.) Since white people tend to know a lot of social history about the youth culture environment facing different generations of whites, this graphical trick could be productive of generating hypotheses.


* Congratulations to Professor Gelman for using intuitive colors for females and males on his graph. A lot of other graphs in recent years have been designed with the colors representing different demographic groups intentionally scrambled to confuse the reader in the name of Fighting Stereotypes.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: White Death 

The growth in death rates among whites identified in late October by Case & Deaton for 45-54 year olds is turning out to be not restricted just to middle-aged whites. This week, Andrew Gelman pointed out that the age adjusted death rate was up 9% from 1999 to 2013 among white women age 35-44 (although down among men of the same age).

But a blog called Economics and Social Commentary by Sendil points out that at least age-unadjusted death rates are up sharply among white 25-34 year olds (lumping both sexes together):

Their publication thus suggests that mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites did not increase for any age group other than the 45-54 age group. However, this is what I found in the CDC WONDER database. Here are is the change in mortality rates per 100,000 people for non-Hispanic whites, among the 25-34 age group:

Year Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the right Deaths Click to sort by Deaths ascending Click to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the left Population Click to sort by Population ascending Click to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the left Crude Rate Per 100,000 Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 ascending Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 descending
1999 23,986 26,264,713 91.3
2000 23,191 25,735,244 90.1
2001 24,191 25,009,128 96.7
2002 23,758 24,581,498 96.6
2003 23,557 24,227,137 97.2
2004 23,397 23,954,185 97.7
2005 23,826 23,668,541 100.7
2006 24,606 23,508,119 104.7
2007 24,757 23,533,841 105.2
2008 24,852 23,740,364 104.7
2009 25,203 23,983,625 105.1
2010 25,486 24,143,320 105.6
2011 26,754 24,519,007 109.1
2012 27,266 24,744,491 110.2
2013 27,583 24,969,763 110.5

The relative increase since 1999 is 21%. Yes that’s right, 21%. Quite a lot more than the 8.9% relative increase observed for the age group 45-54, during the same period. Yet no one talks about the sharp increase in mortality rates for this age group. Probably because no one knows about it.

Note that I don’t believe Sendil applied the age-adjustment technique that Gelman devised to account for influence of the Baby Boom ageing through the 45-54 year range. But the size of this white 25-34 year old population is relatively stable from 1999 to 2013, so age adjusting probably wouldn’t have that much of an effect.

I’m guessing that opioid overdoses are the driving force in this very bad news. But clearly this topic needs more investigation.

UPDATE: Jason Bayz graphs CDC data on cause of death among whites (both sexes) age 25-34:

By Jason Bayz

So it’s mostly drug-related deaths among 25-34 year olds. Although the near-doubling of the alcohol-related deaths in this young age group does not bode well for the future. It’s hard to drink yourself to death by age 34, but less difficult to do it by, say, age 54 if you have a running start at it in your 20s.

• Tags: White Death 

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman follows up on Angus Deaton and Ann Case’s October paper on the increase in death rates among whites aged 45-54 with a graph showing the age-adjusted death rate among white men spiked in the early 2000s, then dropped back to about 2% above where it was in 1999 (in an era when death rates for Hispanics and blacks were dropping steadily). But death rates among white women continued to grow and by 2013, the latest year for which data are available, were about 9% above 1999.

The next step would be to decompose this into separate causes such as lung cancer and overdoses.

And here’s more bad news that was previously overlooked: Gelman’s new graphs show death rates are way up among 35-44 year old white women, too:

Screenshot 2015-11-10 23.04.23

And, judging by how bad the single year of age graph for 35 year olds looks, the trend should be checked in 25-34 year olds too:

Screenshot 2015-11-11 00.41.24

• Tags: White Death 

Yesterday I was walking along and it occurred to me that some of the horrific change in death rates among 45-54 year American whites since the late 1990s relative to other groups in America and abroad may be due to changes over time in the average age of 45-54 year olds.

Screenshot 2015-11-03 21.49.26Back in 1998, 45-54 years olds were born in 1944 to 1953, but there weren’t all that many people in that cohort who were born in 1944 or 1945 because the Baby Boom didn’t start until 1946. So the average age in 1998 of the 45-54 year old cohort was lower than you would guess if you naively assumed that 10% of its members were born in each year.

By 2013, the birth years of 45-54 year olds were 1959-1968. The birthrate declined pretty steadily in the 1960s with the usual final year of the Baby Boom said to be 1964, although that’s fairly arbitrary. But in any case, it was lower in 1968 than in 1959, so the average age of 45-54 year olds was a little older in 2013 than in 1998.

So, in 2013, the average 45-54 year old was slightly older than the average 45-54 year old in 1998, so it’s not surprising, all else being equal, that they tended to die more.

And sure enough, today, both Andrew Gelman and Philip Cohen post helpful calculations estimating that half of the absolute increase in middle-aged white death rates might be due to this increase in average age among 45-54 year olds.

But these estimates just account for half of the absolute rise in death rates, leaving not only the other half of the absolute rise but the entire opportunity cost of the fall in death rates seen among other middle-aged groups in America and abroad.

Moreover, while the Baby Boomer effect as purely a statistical artifact has some explanatory power, my suggestion that The Sixties! rather than the Baby Boom played a role in higher death rates due to the three main growing causes: overdoses, suicides, and liver problems. (Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died at 46 in 2014, would be pretty representative — for a celebrity — of whites taking the express checkout lane.) Obviously, the Baby Boom and The Sixties! of sex, drugs and rock and roll are interrelated, but we can use the fact that drugs didn’t become a broad scale mass phenomenon in America as soon as the first Baby Boomer turned 18 in 1964, but instead took 5 or 10 years longer to move from elite to mass consumption.

Let’s take another look at Deaton and Case’s graph of five-year cohorts measuring the spectacular growth in death rates for three causes: overdoses, suicides, and liver troubles. This is for 1999-2013 (while other work they’ve done looks at 1998-2013):

Screenshot 2015-11-03 22.23.42

When I eyeball the lines, I come up with the following table of five-year cohorts, sorted from oldest to youngest:

Screenshot 2015-11-06 15.30.39

For example, the 60 to 64 year old white cohort (dashed purple line) showed an increase in death rate per year from 1999 to 2013 of 1.7, which is pretty bad, but pretty average for this chart. In 1999, the oldest members of the cohort were born in 1935 and the youngest in 1939, so none of them were Baby Boomers. By 2013, all of the 60 to 64 year olds were Baby Boomers, with the oldest being born in 1949 and the youngest born in 1953. These people in 2013, on rough average, had been 18 in 1969. Drugs were becoming more common but remained more an upscale fashion in 1969, with Woodstock that summer often seen as the last example of the previously upscale drug scene, while Altamont that fall came as a warning that the surly masses were getting out of control.

But the big increases in death rates from 1999 to 2013 were seen in the next two younger cohorts, the Red Dash group of 55-59 year olds and Green line group of 50-54 year olds.

In 1999, the Red Dash 55-59 year olds were born between 1940 and 1944 and were 18 around 1960, while in 2013 they born between 1954-1958 and were 18 around 1974. They had a death rate from the Big 3 new killers that went up 2.9 per year.

Even worse were the Green line 50-54 year olds whose death rate went up 3.1 per year. In 1999, they were mostly but not entirely Baby Boomers born in 1945-1949. On average they were 18 in 1965, when you pretty much had to Brian Wilson to be getting heavy into drugs that early in the Sixties. But in 2013 the cohort was comprised of people born in 1959-1963 who were 18 around 1979.

After that the growth in the death rate falls until the youngest group, the 30-34s (which seems worrisome, but I don’t that much about younger people, so I’ll leave it to somebody else to investigate).

So, some of the growth rate in deaths is purely a statistical artifact, but some of it seems tied to rapidly changing cultural norms about drugs and the like during white Americans’ most famously impressionable years.

It could be that I’m all wrong about my surmise of there being a “generational effect” on the death rate from overdoses etc. in the 2000s. But my theory that white people took a lot of drugs in the late 1960s and 1970s and that’s having some kind of medical or behavioral effect on them in the 21st Century doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

UPDATE: Case & Deaton respond in the NYT to Gelman with a new graph:

Screenshot 2015-11-06 19.15.39

We shared the Gelman critique with the study’s authors, and Mr. Deaton sent a reply to our colleague Gina Kolata, who had written a front-page article about the study. The data you see in the chart here is the essence of his reply: Breaking down the 45-to-54 age group into single years of age, which should avoid Mr. Gelman’s concern, still shows the same pattern.

“If we want to be more precise about the age range involved, we could say that for all single years of age from 47 to 52, mortality rates are increasing,” wrote Mr. Deaton, the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. “So the overall increase in mortality is not due to failure to age adjust.”

He added that some of the causes of death that were rising, such as drug overdose, “are not things that people age into,” unlike cancer or heart disease.

“We stick by our results,” he said.

Update: Mr. Gelman has responded on his blog. He accepts that mortality rose for middle-aged whites between 1999 and 2013, he said, but notes that the rise was substantially less after adjusting for age.

Based on his reading of the more detailed Case-Deaton numbers, Mr. Gelman wrote, “mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites aged 45-54 increased by an average of about 4% after controlling for age.” The increase was 12 percent without the age adjustment, suggesting that age bias accounted for about two-thirds of the increase — but did not entirely explain the increase.

Ultimately, both sides of the exchange agree on a fundamental fact: The recent mortality trends for middle-aged whites look significantly worse than they do for many other groups. “Their key claim,” Mr. Gelman writes, “is that death rates among middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. slightly increased, even while corresponding death rates in other countries declined by about 30%.”

Looking at Case & Deaton’s new graph, the age range with declining mortality rates (age 45-46) who were 45 or 46 in 1999 were born in 1953-1954, and turned 18 in 1971-72. People who were 45 or 46 in 2013 were born in 1967-1968 and turned 18 in 1985-1986.

In contrast, look at age 50, the worst increase in death rates: somebody who was 50 in 1999 was 18 in 1967 while somebody who was 50 in 2013 was 18 in 1981.

But what’s the deal about people who were 18 in 1964?


Gelman adds his own new graph with an age adjustment:

With Gelman’s age-adjustment, he finds a sharp increase in death rates for 45-54 year old white men from 1999 to 2005, with stabilization after that. (I’m not sure why he looks at white men rather than whites of both sexes).

In other words, this very bad stuff happened roughly 10 to 16 years ago, but nobody much noticed it until 2015, which says a lot about how much our society is looking out in an organized fashion for the interests of whites qua whites.

• Tags: White Death 

Screenshot 2015-11-03 21.49.26 The majority of the ongoing increase in death rates among 45-54 year old whites happened around 1999-2002. But nobody much noticed that it had happened until 13 years later on October 29, 2015, when the husband-wife team of Angus Deaton and Ann Case published a paper on it.

Why not?

Well, first, everybody might well have gone on ignoring this if Deaton hadn’t won the quasi-Nobel in economics a few weeks earlier.

Second, it took a certain amount of work to extract the numbers from the CDC’s annual report on “Deaths.” I’ve worked a lot with the equivalent annual report on “Births.” Some trends are graphed by the government, some are displayed in tables, but some have to be laboriously constructed by the end user from different reports. I’m guessing that Deaton and Case had to construct the red line in this graph at left from separate annual reports.

Third, and most important, there are virtually no respectable organizations that have it as part of their mission to care about the well-being of whites. In contrast, there are countless organizations scanning for statistics showing that blacks are getting a bad break. But looking out for whites is mostly a good way to wind up on the SPLC’s list of hate groups, so nobody pays much attention.

• Tags: White Death 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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