The United States’ life expectancy rates have been consistently lower than other nations’ numbers for most of the past few decades — but new research from economist Paul Krugman seems to suggest that people in “blue states” are, at the very least, keeping pace with those other nations, while “red state” residents have not done so.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. is ranked 43rd overall for nations, in terms of their life expectancies. That puts us well in the upper quarter of nations that the intelligence agency examines, but worse in rankings than some other nations, like the UK (which ranks 35th), Germany (34th), France (17th), and Japan (2nd).
Krugman was curious about this, and wondered, in his latest New York Times column, whether there were differences within the states from a political perspective. He examined life expectancies in states won by Hillary Clinton (“blue” Democratic states) and those won by Donald Trump (“red” Republican states) in the 2016 presidential election.
In 1990, the life expectancy of today’s red and blue states were more-or-less the same, Krugman noted. But over the next three decades, while blue states’ life expectancies improved, red states life expectancies only did so minimally, at a rate that’s barely noticeable.
In fact, as the diagram from Krugman’s tweet below shows, blue states improved at the same rate that other nations from around the world did, while red states kept their overall rate of death the same.
What we see is another red-blue divide. Compare population-weighted averages for states that supported Clinton and Trump in 2016, and you see very different trends 3/ pic.twitter.com/TDDKNnkGeS
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) November 30, 2019
“At this point, blue-state residents can expect to live more than four years longer than their red-state counterparts,” Krugman wrote in his column.
The economist wasn’t quite sure why things worked out this way, but he had some thoughts on the matter.
“Public policy certainly plays some role, especially in recent years, as blue states expanded Medicaid and drastically reduced the number of uninsured, while most red states didn’t,” Krugman wrote. “The growing gap in educational levels has also surely played a role: Better-educated people tend to be healthier than the less educated.”
Other issues stood out to Krugman as well, including lifestyle choices — red states tend to have more obese residence, for instance.
But for all his measurements, Krugman said, it was evident that red state voters didn’t have all the answers they thought they did when it comes to problems facing the nation.
“One thing that’s clear, however, is that the facts are utterly inconsistent with the conservative diagnosis of what ails America,” Krugman concluded.