Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Death by Poverty

They're from an area that is a core of Trump support - Appalachia. And, while their Giant Orange Bloat promises them a future of milk and honey, they're dying in droves - of poverty.

Of course you won't find "poverty" listed on their death certificates. There's always some other, more proximate cause such as opiod overdose. But the real Grim Reaper is inequality and poverty.

Appalachians are dying faster than other Americans.

According to a new study, people in rural Appalachia suffer from rising infant mortality rates and falling life expectancy rates. As The Washington Post writes:

The country made gains on those health measures over the next two decades, but progress in Appalachia stalled. Between 2009 and 2013, the infant-mortality rate was 16 percent higher in Appalachia than in the rest of the country. People could expect to live 2.4 years less than their counterparts in the rest of the United States.

This is partly because of the opioid epidemic, and partly because many states in the Appalachian region refused to expand Medicaid. But Appalachia’s problems do not exist in isolation. Americans die because they’re poor.

None of this should come as any surprise. It's explored convincingly by two British epidemiologists, Kate Picket and Richard Wilkinson in their 2009 book, "The Spirit Level." Here's an excerpt from a review I wrote about their book in 2010:

The authors digest half a century of data from the industrialized democracies of Europe, North America and Asia and similar data from each of the United States. The nations and the states are ranked from least to most-unequal and against that are charted their respective performance on everything from mental health, drug use, physical health and life expectancy, obesity, educational performance, teen births, violence, imprisonment and punishment and social mobility. Whether it's a comparison of individual states or of various nations, the results are consistent. Societies with the greatest income inequality always have the poorest performance records. As wealth gap narrows, performance improves. As it widens, conditions worsen.

What's most impressive about Spirit Level is the depth of the research and the manner in which the authors foresee and pre-empt rebuttals about causation, ethnicity and historical influences. They examine and dispose of each of these at length relying not on professional opinion as much as half a century of observation and study.

The lesson of this book is that income inequality results in societal dysfunction. The authors show that this isn't merely a blight on society's poor but also has profoundly negative impacts on all social stratas save for the narrowest at the top. The likewise show that measures to curb income inequality benefit almost all social segments proportionally.


Anonymous said...

"Poverty is the greatest violence." = "The love of money is the root of all evil."

That's how I see it, today. No shade or shadow of doubt seems to exist in these two precepts. I can attest to the 'poverty effect' on a personal level, and we can all see it if we open our eyes. Go to your local Walmart. I go on my- 'Weep For The People Of Walmart' outing, with a friend, once every couple of months. The illness, obesity, and poverty- abounds.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have- no health-care for my family,, cuts in food-stamps and slashing of safety-nets like Meals on Wheels, and unfettered access to opiates, meth, and booze- which do help to distract us from our misery.

Thanks for this article, MoS.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi LALI. Not that long ago I did quite a bit of long-distance motorcycle touring through the U.S. I got to the point I could tell when I was entering a poorer area. It wasn't signs of street crime or abandoned, derelict housing. The telltale for me was the inescapable sign of pedestrians limping. Those were people with untreated back, hip or knee ailments. There was no surgical remedy for them. I did speak to the occasional one and they had no expectation of remedial surgery. It was one of those things I found utterly dispiriting in America.

Anonymous said...

Hi. And, in so many ways they discriminate- poor housing near pollution, no proper access to food 'cuz no profit, I guess. No money = no funny. No choice. They walk and limp by my window every day. Some, to drink by the canal. Lest I forget, since my heart and mind is full of what's happening to a once potentially great USA, may I take a moment to say that northern Canada, and our cities, are full of people and children who are huffing solvents and dying- individually and in groups- dying to leave their existence. Pure despair with no hope. I have survivor's guilt for making it out of the substance trap and having decent, available, health-care and food.

Anonymous said...

If you'll indulge my Christianity, and my avid belief in science and facts, for a minute...because addiction crosses all demographics I would have to say that it's also a spiritual poverty as well as material.

The Mound of Sound said...

Spirituality can exist quite independently of any particular religious affiliation, LALI, and I completely agree that we are spiritually impoverished. Much like Thomas Jefferson, I embrace the philosophy of Christ just stripped of all the hocus pocus.

Anonymous said...

Well said. And, you do the science justice, here.

Anonymous said...

Anyong....For centuries it has been this way so when is it going to stop. One will hear religious people say, "the poor have always been with us and they will always be with us". It is a pile of malarkey. "Embracing the philosophy of Christ" I totally agree with your assessment MOS. Question is, "how do we do something about the inequality of everyone facing a shortage of money to take care of oneself including the poor. How do we make companies like Walmart tow the line when it comes to wages or any one else for that matter? We are all about "status" and "popularity".