Why is the Hispanic death rate lower?

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Compared to non-Hispanic whites and blacks, Hispanic Americans are survivors.


The Case-Deaton study and its new update showed that the death rate is rising among non-Hispanic white Americans while it is falling among citizens of every other important industrial nation.   Anne Case and Angus Deaton attribute this to the rise “deaths of despair”—from alcohol, drugs and suicide.

The study showed something else that I think is equally interesting.  The death rate among Hispanic Americans has always been lower than among non-Hispanic whites, and it continues to fall, in line with trends in other industrial nations.

In the chart above, the bright red line is the death rate among non-Hispanic white Americans and the bright blue line is the death rate among Hispanic Americans.

The death rate among non-Hispanic American blacks is higher than among whites, but it is falling, not rising.

Anne Case and Angus Deaton emphasize the economic factors that lead to despair throughout much of the USA.   I agree on the need for good jobs with good wages.   I think the evaporation of these jobs is a tragedy caused by bad economic policy that benefits an economic elite.

But what makes Hispanic Americans so resilient?  Is there something toxic in American culture that affects non-Hispanic whites and blacks, but to which they are immune?

In international comparisons, the nations whose people are happiness are generally those with the highest national wealth and the best social safety nets, such as the Scandinavian countries.

But the peoples of Latin American, given the prevalence of poverty, inequality and political instability, are happier than you’d expect.

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I don’t want to be misunderstood:

  • Resilience in the fact of political oppression and economic injustice does not make oppression and injustice acceptable.
  • The fact that Hispanics in the USA seem to bear up better than non-Hispanics does not mean that non-Hispanic black and white Americans are to blame for their problems.
  • Hispanic cultures have negative as well as positive aspects.   I’m not saying the Hispanic U.S. culture is all good and the Anglo U.S. culture is all bad.

My thought is this.  I think that people are psychologically very vulnerable if they base their sense of self-esteem on achieving economic success and being able to buy the latest of this and the best of that.   They are vulnerable because they are committing to things that other people have the power to take away from them.

The mass media of advertising and entertainment promote the idea that your worth consists of your earning power and your spending power.

The work ethic, which is to take pride in doing good work whether people notice or not, is replaced by the success ethic, which is to take pride in how you are rewarded for people.

People with strong ties of religion, family, friends and community have resources to resist this idea, and I think Hispanic cultures may give people these resources.

This is a guess.   I don’t know enough to enough about U.S. Hispanics or Latin Americans to say anything profound about their culture.  All I know is that the figures show that U.S. Hispanics have something that helps them survive.


Morbidity and mortality in the 21st century by Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University (2017)

‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for work on white mortality by Jeff Guo for The Washington Post.

Why Are Latin Americans Happier Than Their GDPs Would Suggest? by Pilar Conci for Ideas Matter, the blog of the Inter-American Development Bank.






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