Orszag on Inequality in Life Expectancy
Few would deny that a few additional years of life would be more precious to most Americans than the extra money they might receive from government transfers. If inequality in things that matter is important, there is a basic inequality that the worriers about inequality should be paying attention to: the inequality in life expectancy between men and women.
A longer-term worry is that the new technologies may widen gaps in life expectancy. Americans are living longer than ever — but, as documented in a recent National Academy of Sciences report (“Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries”), people with more education and income are enjoying much more rapid increases in longevity than others are.
Why is that a “worry?” He’s not saying that life expectancy for less-educated and/or lower-income people is falling. I think it’s not, although I stand to be corrected. He’s saying simply that inequality in life expectancy is growing. He never tells us why that’s a worry. I would be interested in seeing his reasoning.
And once I see his reasoning, I would be interested in seeing whether he’s worried about the higher life expectancy of women. I’m not sure the gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is growing, and so it’s not completely analogous. Still, Orszag seems to see differences in life expectancy as a problem per se.
HT to Greg Mankiw.