What is killing Southern white women?


Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Two researchers at Princeton University published a study last November indicating that the death rate for middle-aged white Americans was on the increase.

Statistical blogger Andrew Gelman analyzed the figures and concluded that the increase is concentrated among white women in the South.

Double click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

One thing he did was to adjust the figures according to age.  Not everybody in an age group, such as 55 to 64, is the same age, and changes in age distribution can skew the figures over time.

The top chart shows the results of Gelman’s adjustment and analysis.

The Princeton study said the main causes for the increased death rate were drug-related (overdoses), alcohol related (liver disease) and suicide—all indicators of despair.   An earlier study said higher mortality among white women was correlated with lack of education and heavy smoking.

Why would this affect Southerners, whites or women more than other Americans?  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure, however, that southern white women, like other Americans, would be healthier and happier in a high-wage, full-employment economy.


Middle-aged white death trend: It’s all about women in the south by Andrew Gelman for his Statistical Monitoring, Causal Inference and Social Science web log.

Rising morbidity and mortality among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century by Anne Case and Angus Deaton for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The original study.

Explaining the Widening Education Gap in Mortality Among U.S. White Women by Jennifer Karas Montez and Anna Zajakova for the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.  (2013)  An earlier study.

This map of America’s female morality rates is pretty terrifying by Sarah Kliff for the Washington Post (2013).

What’s Killing Poor White Women? by Monica Potts for the American Prospect.

The Lonely Poverty of America’s White Working Class by Victor Tan Chen for The Atlantic.


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3 Responses to “What is killing Southern white women?”

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety Says:

    Because, in America, they are the main wage earners for their families. If you go back and look at death rates after the collapse of the Soviet Union you will see very similar rates of death for men in the same age range. Loss of wages, loss of identity.


  2. Holden Says:

    I think too much political squabble in the media is starting to cloud your world view. You basically state at the end of your post- “If we all had jobs and made more money we’d be happy.”

    Well, I just so happen to live in a sea of seemingly unhappy, white, southern women. They’re all members of wealthy families and stay at home moms!

    Their issue is- they don’t need a job and have too much money because their husbands are successful business men who work too much and their lives, don’t spend enough time with them or their children and their time is occupied by unnecessary gadgets and mindless distractions.

    Step outside the micro-bubble of your community and remember that the United States is a big place with a lot of regional cultures and sub-cultures within those regional cultures.


  3. John Pennington Says:

    I think the increasing loss of jobs to computers and robots at all levels of employment is beginning to have a noticeable effect.


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