Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton and his wife, Anne Case, have released a new study, “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century,” enumerating how many unprivileged whites have died from despair while privileged whites prattled about the curse of white privilege.
Judging from mortality statistics, something very bad has happened to working-class white Americans in this century.
The downturn in life expectancy has occurred despite continued advances in medical technology that are steadily boosting life spans in other countries. In 2015, life expectancy fell for Americans overall, stemming in part to a sudden spike in black male death rates, perhaps due to the Ferguson Effect of blacks shooting blacks in increasing numbers following the rise of Black Lives Matter in 2014.
But mostly the decline was caused by continued increases in death rates for young and middle-aged whites. The White Death hasn’t gotten as bad yet as the horrifying drop in Russian male life expectancies during the Yeltsin years. Yet it’s reminiscent of the tendency of Russians to react to the slow moral decay of Communism and to the sharp shock of defeat in the Cold War by drinking themselves to death.
Nonetheless, until just 18 months ago, barely anybody in positions of authority or influence in America had noticed it, so pervasive is our system’s animosity toward whites of humble backgrounds. (Matt Stoller here lists homicidal comments about working-class whites left on the Huffington Post.)
In fact, it’s possible that the only reason the White Death is talked about today is a coincidence in the fall of 2015.