What's Killing Poor White Women?
Crystal Wilson was just 38 years old when shed died in her sleep in Cave City, Arkansas last spring. Sidney-winner Monica Potts uses Wilson’s story as a prism through which to examine one of the most pressing public health mysteries of our time. Life expectacy is rising in the United States, almost across the board. The execeptions are poor white women, who are actually losing ground:
Everything about Crystal’s life was ordinary, except for her death. She is one of a demographic—white women who don’t graduate from high school—whose life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years. These women can now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. Throughout history, technological and scientific innovation have put death off longer and longer, but the benefits of those advances have not been shared equally, especially across the race and class divides that characterize 21st–century America. Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages, and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them. [Prospect]
A poor white woman’s life expectancy has fallen from nearly 79 to 73, which suggests that more women in this demographic are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties. A five-year drop in life expectancy over the course of 20 years is alarming for both its size and its speed. Potts argues that white women in certain communities are chronically starved for education, opportunity, and social support.
[Photo credit: Zach Stern, Creative Commons.]