The overall mortality rate in the US is the highest in the developed world. But when you dig into the data the breakdown of the various American ethnic groups is very surprising. Last fall Anne Case and Angus Deaton published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shortly before Deaton was awarded the 2015 Nobel prize in Economics,  that showed a marked increase in all-cause mortality in middle-aged white non-Hispanic Americans between 1999 and 2013. All other ethnic groups experienced a decline in mortality. This increase in midlife whites was confined to the US. “This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity.” [Quotation from paper linked above]

Shortly after the above paper was published Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute compiled the data shown in the table below. [Click on the chart for a larger view]

mortality data

Start with the column on the extreme right. Compare the mortality rates in whites to Asians and Hispanics. The lower the number the lower the mortality rate. Note that Asian mortality is almost half that of whites and that of Hispanics 75% of whites. Only blacks had a higher mortality than whites. These differences are not explained by poverty, education, income, the presence of health insurance, or geography.

Compared to the rest of the developed world Hispanic Americans have a longer life expectancy. Asian Americans live, on average, five years longer than Japanese.  The combined mortality of these two groups is the lowest in the world even though they are economically worse off than than the average American. See Eberstadt’s  Race, Class, Health. An explanation for these surprising findings is not in sight. A diligent search for it seems in order.