Brookings Institution: Caucasian Non-College Educated Deaths Rise at Startling Rate

Reflective of the unhappiness and needs among non-college educated Caucasians:

  • The Brookings Institution has released a report documenting rising mortality since the turn of this century for a broad swath of Caucasian adults, starting at age 25, driven by troubles in the hard-hit working class.
  • The increase stems partly from ‘deaths of despair’—from drugs, alcohol-related liver diseases and suicide.  The opioid epidemic has only heightened a trend that was already under way before those drugs hit the market.
  • Death rates for non-college educated Caucasians now exceed those of blacks overall.
  • By contrast, the mortality rate has continued to decline this century for Caucasians with a college degree, albeit more slowly than before.
  • The analysis paints a portrait of a gradual “collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s,” and whose health, mental well-being, and attachment to the labor force have become successively worse for people born after 1945.
  • Taken together, these changes in life may be leading to physical and mental-health problems, the researchers calling their hypothesis “preliminary but plausible” with more research needed on several fronts.  The rising mortality of working-class white adults appears to be rooted both in worse job opportunities and increasing social dysfunction, following generations of relatively stable lives that involved job advancement and an expectation of living better than one’s parents.  Those changes have come along with trends such as a decline in marriage, more temporary relationships and children out of wedlock, and a rise in social isolation that have made life less stable.
  • The work deepens a growing body of academic and government research into the possible causes of rising mortality rates among Caucasians, whose ills among the working class are reshaping the nation’s social, political, and economic landscape.
  • The ills are so deep and complex that it could take many years and many changes in policy to reverse.


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