Death of the Middle Class – Literally

 

“Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies.”

I was stunned when I read this article and others describing a study that was conducted in 2015 by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two celebrated economists, and then updated in a study just released. Our middle class is dying.

In a country that has celebrated its declining mortality rate, due to our success as a nation, we now have a large group of people whose mortality rates are climbing. Case and Deaton describe an increase in “deaths of despair”—people with high school education or less, between 25-54, who suffer from poor job prospects, little hope for the future, drug use and depression. The trends include a decline in marriage, children born out of wedlock and increased physical and mental problems.

At a time when we have seen the gap grow between the successful and the poor, resulting in a shrinking middle class, we may be seeing the manifestation of these social misfortunes.

‘For many Americans, America is starting to fail as a country,’ said James Smith, chair in labor markets and demographic research at the Rand Corp., who wasn’t involved in the paper and said he was struck that mortality rates are rising for young working-class adults. ‘The bad things that are going on in America do not appear to be going on in Western European countries, and that’s a big deal.’

The phenomenon is occurring all across the country, to men and women, both in urban and rural areas, Ms. Case and Mr. Deaton wrote.

Although blacks and Hispanics have had a higher death rate than whites, their rates are going down, while whites have increased, closing the mortality gap.

We’ve been hearing about the shrinking middle class for a long time. When we read these statistics, though, the reality that our fellow Americans are suffering to this degree is deeply disturbing to me. Stories appear that even more middle class Americans are going to lose their jobs through technology improvement, robotics and other types of progress and efficiencies that are sure to displace even more people. Even worse, where do they go for help? More government outlays? We have an enormous number of duplicative job training programs, but are they serving these folks? The medical community? Another group that will be in even more chaos if our health laws and services aren’t straightened out. The churches? Unless the people in need are selective, they may find liberal churches that assure them that their problems are society’s fault, rather than locating churches that empower and encourage them to find their way out of this downward spiral.

Case and Deaton tell us, “…the ills are so deep and complex that it could take many years and many changes in policy to reverse.”

Can we just stand by and watch this happen? Are there steps we can take as a concerned nation to change these dynamics? Do we have a responsibility to take action? What can we possibly do?

Published in Economics
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  1. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Well National Review and other Conservatives think this is a good thing, so if you subscribe to their way of thinking, you should just let it happen.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I pray that we start caring about each other so much that we notice when people are losing interest in living because they are lonely and feel like life is passing them by. Isolation is one of the biggest killers out there now.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well National Review and other Conservatives think this is a good thing, so if you subscribe to their way of thinking, you should just let it happen.

    Could you elaborate on this point just a little? I’m trying to figure out why it might be a good thing. If people are moving up the ladder to success, that’s positive, but that appears to be part of the problem, according to this study–they’re not.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I pray that we start caring about each other so much that we notice when people are losing interest in living because they are lonely and feel like life is passing them by. Isolation is one of the biggest killers out there now.

    Fascinating, Marci. When I wrote my piece on friendships ending, a number of men wrote about their male friends. I didn’t think to ask them their age; that information might have been very revealing. Thanks.

    • #4
  5. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well National Review and other Conservatives think this is a good thing, so if you subscribe to their way of thinking, you should just let it happen.

    Could you elaborate on this point just a little? I’m trying to figure out why it might be a good thing. If people are moving up the ladder to success, that’s positive, but that appears to be part of the problem, according to this study–they’re not.

    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know and start a program like the ones you listed above that don’t work that well or you should be allowed to die off in order to remove burdens from the economy (welfare, food stamps, unemployment etc.). I guess it would also open up more space for immigrants to take your place. Now I’m sure many will call me wrong or slanderous, but that is how I took NR’s argument.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know and start a program like the ones you listed above that don’t work that well or you should be allowed to die off in order to remove burdens from the economy (welfare, food stamps, unemployment etc.). I guess it would also open up more space for immigrants to take your place. Now I’m sure many will call me wrong or slanderous, but that is how I took NR’s argument.

    Well, there’s no conservative I know that would agree with the way you’ve stated this point, and I don’t read National Review regularly. It will be interesting to have others chime in. Thanks for your comment.

    • #6
  7. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know and start a program like the ones you listed above that don’t work that well or you should be allowed to die off in order to remove burdens from the economy (welfare, food stamps, unemployment etc.). I guess it would also open up more space for immigrants to take your place. Now I’m sure many will call me wrong or slanderous, but that is how I took NR’s argument.

    Well, there’s no conservative I know that would agree with the way you’ve stated this point, and I don’t read National Review regularly. It will be interesting to have others chime in. Thanks for your comment.

    Thank you!

    • #7
  8. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know

    Isn’t that the history of the United States?

    “Light out for the Territories”?

    “Go West Young Man”?

    There wouldn’t even be a United States if it weren’t for people leaving “everything [they] know” in Europe to start over in the New World.  Seems kind of strange to suddenly decide it’s a communist plot of some kind.

     

    • #8
  9. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    Good thing statistics aren’t contagious.  This is an intellectual mental exercise only, with no life lessons or morality implied or involved.  Except for NR’s Williamson, who possibly speaks to Outlaws6688’s point.  If you’re in the danger zone of that graph, pull up stakes, abandon your community, reduce your expectations, and take up your new life as an economic vagabond.

    • #9
  10. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know

    Isn’t that the history of the United States?

    “Light out for the Territories”?

    “Go West Young Man”?

    There wouldn’t even be a United States if it weren’t for people leaving “everything [they] know” in Europe to start over in the New World. Seems kind of strange to suddenly decide it’s a communist plot of some kind.

    It was typically by choice, and not motivated by “smart” analysis from the media.

    • #10
  11. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    I find it interesting coming to this posting after reading the comments on Cato Rand’s latest apologia for illegal immigrants. We are selling our children’s birthright for a mess of multicultural pottage, and anyone who makes a peep of protest is bludgeoned with the racist label.

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?

    Or fester like a sore—
    And then run?

    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over—
    Like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    Like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    Good thing statistics aren’t contagious. This is an intellectual mental exercise only, with no life lessons or morality implied or involved

    I’m not disagreeing that people need to go where the work is, TW, as much as they dislike it. But depression can be so debilitating at some point that people can’t imagine doing anything. Also, I think a good study doesn’t draw moral conclusions–that’s one of the things I hate about some of the ridiculous studies initiated by the left. When you have  what I think is worthy data, it’s up to us to draw the moral or life lessons. That’s what I’m suggesting people consider.

    • #12
  13. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Thanks for cherry picking only half of my statement. I’m sure it makes you look more credible.

    No one has to respond to all of a person’s comment, outlaw. If you like, you can invite a person to respond to the other part. No need to pick a fight.

    I apologize. New here. I guess I’m to used the knock out drag out style of other website’s comment sections. In the future I will try to remember that.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    I find it interesting coming to this posting after reading the comments on Cato Rand’s latest apologia for illegal immigrants. We are selling our children’s birthright for a mess of multicultural pottage, and anyone who makes a peep of protest is bludgeoned with the racist label.

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?

    Or fester like a sore—
    And then run?

    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over—
    Like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    Like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

    And what do you think, Petty?

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Thanks for cherry picking only half of my statement. I’m sure it makes you look more credible.

    No one has to respond to all of a person’s comment, outlaw. If you like, you can invite a person to respond to the other part. No need to pick a fight.

    • #15
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know

    Isn’t that the history of the United States?

    “Light out for the Territories”?

    “Go West Young Man”?

    There wouldn’t even be a United States if it weren’t for people leaving “everything [they] know” in Europe to start over in the New World. Seems kind of strange to suddenly decide it’s a communist plot of some kind.

    It was typically by choice,

    Was it?  I’m not sure the Irish during the Potato famine necessarily wanted to leave everything they knew and come to the United States.

     

    • #16
  17. Vice-Potentate Inactive
    Vice-Potentate
    @VicePotentate

    Marriage drives these social maladies away. What happened 50/40/30 years ago that wrecked this cohort’s marriage prospects?

     

     

     

    • #17
  18. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    And what do you think, Petty?

    I think the nomination and election of Trump was just the blasting cap on the explosion that’s to come if we don’t fundamentally change course on our nation’s priorities. We are supposed to spend how much per family vetting and re-vetting Somali immigrants that hate us and our values while 36,000 homeless veterans are on the rolls looking for housing assistance. Any and all attempts to suggest a restructuring of our economy away from the policies of desolation evidenced in these statistics is met with bleats about “free trade”  that has never existed anywhere outside the imagination of the faculty lounge toffs that propose them.

     

    • #18
  19. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    “Go West Young Man”?

    There wouldn’t even be a United States if it weren’t for people leaving “everything [they] know” in Europe to start over in the New World. Seems kind of strange to suddenly decide it’s a communist plot of some kind.

    Agreed. But there’s a difference between saying there are prospects for the daring and suggesting it’s a one-size-fits-all solution to under-employment.

    Burkean conservatives might also note a citizen’s inherent responsibilities to parents, grandparents, and other proximate relatives in need. If a young man relocates for better opportunities, who will pay for the elderly care he informally provided at lesser cost? The strong social networks which enable limited government rely on families and neighbors sticking together, more often than not.

    Susan, another reason mortality rates might be changing is the frequency of non-physical careers (like programming) which are often accompanied by unhealthy habits. Greater affluence also means physical chores are more commonly contracted out to plumbers, gardeners, etc. Sedentary lifestyles might be a factor.

    The health nuts in my family might also suggest looking at the abundance of chemicals and preservatives in modern foods. But I think anything with a half-century shelf life, like Ding Dongs, must bestow its glorious vitality to the consumer.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Vice-Potentate (View Comment):
    Marriage drives these social maladies away. What happened 50/40/30 years ago that wrecked this cohort’s marriage prospects?

    Free love? Feminism? I’m halfway serious.

    • #20
  21. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Or perhaps the middle class should take up smoking again. We were healthier then. ;)

    • #21
  22. outlaws6688 Inactive
    outlaws6688
    @outlaws6688

    Vice-Potentate (View Comment):
    Marriage drives these social maladies away. What happened 50/40/30 years ago that wrecked this cohort’s marriage prospects?

    Feminism and the corrupt marriage courts that make many men commit suicide after everything is taken away from them.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    And what do you think, Petty?

    I think the nomination and election of Trump was just the blasting cap on the explosion that’s to come if we don’t fundamentally change course on our nation’s priorities. We are supposed to spend how much per family vetting and re-vetting Somali immigrants that hate us and our values while 36,000 homeless veterans are on the rolls looking for housing assistance. Any and all attempts to suggest a restructuring of our economy away from the policies of desolation evidenced in these statistics is met with bleats about “free trade” that has never existed anywhere outside the imagination of the faculty lounge toffs that propose them.

    And I’m quite certain that veterans are becoming a significant part of that study population. Very insightful. I’m glad I asked you to elaborate!

    • #23
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Burkean conservatives might also note a citizen’s inherent responsibilities to parents, grandparents, and other proximate relatives in need. If a young man relocates for better opportunities, who will pay for the elderly care he informally provided at lesser cost? The strong social networks which enable limited government rely on families and neighbors sticking together, more often than not.

    We had mass migration inside the United States (and at a time when cheap/easy travel and communication options were a lot less ubiquitous than they are now) long before we had public alternatives to private care.

     

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Susan, another reason mortality rates might be changing is the frequency of non-physical careers (like programming) which are often accompanied by unhealthy habits. Greater affluence also means physical chores are more commonly contracted out to plumbers, gardeners, etc. Sedentary lifestyles might be a factor.

    Good point. We don’t do a lot of chores we used to (working in the yard, washing the cars, working on engines) but we try to make sure we exercise regularly. Of course, not everyone is willing to do that–especially once they are depressed. Ironically, exercise helps with depression. Thanks, Aaron.

    • #25
  26. Vice-Potentate Inactive
    Vice-Potentate
    @VicePotentate

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Well National Review and other Conservatives think this is a good thing, so if you subscribe to their way of thinking, you should just let it happen.

    Could you elaborate on this point just a little? I’m trying to figure out why it might be a good thing. If people are moving up the ladder to success, that’s positive, but that appears to be part of the problem, according to this study–they’re not.

    Well they think that if you are struggling or having problems you should either move away from everything you know and start a program like the ones you listed above that don’t work that well or you should be allowed to die off in order to remove burdens from the economy (welfare, food stamps, unemployment etc.). I guess it would also open up more space for immigrants to take your place. Now I’m sure many will call me wrong or slanderous, but that is how I took NR’s argument.

    I think blaming National Review is overbroad; you’re really talking about Kevin Williamson. And I think you’re mistaking a reality check for an argument. That “die-off” part, too. What is that about? I’ve never seen that argument made, even tacitly.

     

    • #26
  27. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Thanks for cherry picking only half of my statement. I’m sure it makes you look more credible.

    No one has to respond to all of a person’s comment, outlaw. If you like, you can invite a person to respond to the other part. No need to pick a fight.

    I apologize. New here. I guess I’m to used the knock out drag out style of other website’s comment sections. In the future I will try to remember that.

    Nice reply. If you want more info on what the site is like, you can check out the code of conduct. Basically, assume people are arguing in good faith.

    That’s the ideal, at least. :)

    • #27
  28. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    We had mass migration inside the United States (and at a time when cheap/easy travel and communication options were a lot less ubiquitous than they are now) long before we had public alternatives to private care.

    We also had much larger families.

    I was one of five kids, so it worked out that I can care for my parents while others scatter. An only child without unbreakable bonds to extended family will have a harder time devoting himself to both career opportunities and elder care.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    J. D. Fitzpatrick (View Comment):
    Nice reply. If you want more info on what the site is like, you can check out the code of conduct. Basically, assume people are arguing in good faith.

    That’s the ideal, at least

    Thanks, J.D. And if he visits my posts, I tend to be a pain in the neck if people get nasty. outlaw wasn’t really nasty, but I wanted to suggest a different approach.

    • #29
  30. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Here are two reasons.  First, the Auto Industry and its Unions got the working-class folks used to high wages, excellent benefits, and near-lifetime employment.  When those things priced American-made cars out of the market and led to lower-priced competition from imported Japanese cars, those jobs started to disappear with nothing to take their place.  That situation came to a head in the 2008 debacle.

    The other big factor still taking place today is Radical Feminism.  Starting in the 1960s, the Femi-Nazis and their “A Woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” slogan started the decline of men in America, and around the world.  Those working-class men with good auto-industry jobs were sucker-punched from every side.  Marriage declined in importance as the feminists said they didn’t need it, and increasingly had jobs and children outside marriage.  Men were no longer needed or valued as breadwinners.  See what has happened, and is continuing to happen?

    • #30
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