- New research from the Equality of Opportunity Project looks at how life expectancy can vary depending on income and location in the United States.
- The paper suggests that low-income Americans live longest in big, dense cities, like New York; Santa Barbara, California; and Miami, Florida. High-income Americans live longest in Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Maine.
- In general, large cities could boost longevity, since residents tend to walk more, drive less, and have higher levels of economic success.
Where you live and how much money you make may affect how long you live.
That’s according to new research from the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP), a collaboration between several sociologists and economists that aims to study what hampers financial mobility in the United States.
The team’s latest research explores the association between a person’s geographical location, income level, and life expectancy. To do that, the EOP analysed income data from 1.4 billion tax records between 1999 and 2014 in cities and counties across the US, as well as mortality data from Social Security Administration death records. The researchers then adjusted the values to take race, ethnicity, and gender into account.
Looking at residents in the bottom-income quartile, here are the metro areas where people live the longest along with mean life expectancy:
- New York, New York: 81.8 years
- Santa Barbara, California: 81.7 years
- San Jose, California: 81.6 years
- Miami, Florida: 81.2 years
- Los Angeles, California: 81.1 years
- San Diego, California: 81.1 years
- San Francisco, California: 80.9 years
- Santa Rosa, California: 80.8 years
- Newark, New Jersey: 80.7 years
- Port St. Lucie, Florida: 80.7 years
And here are the top-ranking metros for those in the top-income quartile:
- Salt Lake City, Utah: 87.8 years
- Portland, Maine: 87.8 years
- Spokane, Washington: 87.7 years
- Santa Barbara, California: 87.5 years
- Denver, Colorado: 87.5
- Minneapolis, Minnesota: 87.3 years
- Grand Rapids, Michigan: 87.3 years
- Madison, Wisconsin: 87.2 years
- Eugene, Oregon: 87.2 years
- Springfield, Massachusetts: 87.2 years
The paper suggests that a higher income is strongly correlated with a higher life expectancy: there’s a 6-year difference in life expectancy between the poor and wealthy in the top cities for each list. The gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% was 14.6 years for men and 10.1 years for women. In addition, the researchers wrote that the gap in life expectancy between the richest 5% and poorest 5% grew significantly between 2001 and 2014.
According to the paper, poor Americans tend to live longer in large, dense cities with more immigrants, higher local government spending, a better educated population, and more costly housing. In cities like San Francisco, California and New York City, the life expectancy for people in the bottom 5% of the income distribution was approximately 80 years.
Intuitively, these rankings make sense -people in cities tend to walk more, drive less, and thus lead more active lifestyles. The data also suggests that, even for low-income people, economically prosperous cities could boost longevity.
Correlation doesn’t show causation, but the findings still offer insight into how to improve cities for residents regardless of their income.
“A defining feature of the ‘American Dream’ is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents,” the researchers wrote. “Our work shows that children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century. Understanding what has led to this erosion of the American Dream – and how we can revive it for future generations – is the motivation for the Equality of Opportunity Project.”
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