Political Insider

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Donald Trump and ‘deaths of despair’ among blue-collar whites

A year before the November election, we told you that a new Princeton University study had found a riveting explanation for the curious viability of a reality TV star turned Republican presidential candidate. From then:

This will sound more than a little gruesome, but if you want to explain Donald Trump, look no further than the increasing rates of suicide and death by drugs among white, middle-aged Americans.

On Thursday, those same two Princeton academics, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, were out with a sequel to their 2015 work, published on the Brookings website:

Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.


The combined effect means that mortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015.

Here’s the video with a more detailed explanation:


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.