Wealth Redistribution to Extend Longevity in the US, JAMA Internal Medicine, January 29, 2024, by Kathryn E. W. Himmelstein, Alexander C. Tsai, Atheendar S. Venkataramani
Question: What is the association between wealth redistribution and longevity in the US?
Findings: In this cohort study of 35,164 US adults aged 50 years or older, those with low and high wealth experienced marked differences in longevity. Participants in the highest wealth decile had a hazard ratio of 0.59 for death (95% CI, 0.53-0.66) compared with those in the lowest decile, corresponding to a 13.5-year difference in survival. Simulations suggested that more equitable distributions of wealth might be associated with up to 2.2 years of additional population-level longevity, closing the gap with other OECD countries.
Conclusions: The findings of this cohort study suggest that unequal and racialized distribution of wealth in the US is associated with dramatically reduced longevity across the entire population, with particularly harmful consequences for the survival of individuals with low wealth and Black individuals in the US. Redistributive policies could greatly improve health and longevity of US residents without harming the health of individuals in the US who are currently wealthy.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
In the United States, the wealthiest 10% of households hold over 70% of the total wealth, whereas the lower half holds less than 2%. Racial wealth inequalities are even worse. Unfortunately, this plays out in impaired access to medical care and other health risks for poor, Blacks, and Latinos – together substantially lowering life expectancy in these groups.
The good news is that we can fix this. We can redistribute wealth from billionaires and mega-millionaires, using public policies – most of all taxation. We could use much of that revenue to pay for a health care system that takes care of all of us, without the wealthy losing any health care at all. Thus, none of us would have to worry any longer about economic disadvantage reducing our life span.