News Release

Adult longevity, education, and racial identity

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The adult longevity advantage associated with a bachelor's degree (BA) has widened over the past three decades in the United States, while the racial gap in adult life expectancy has narrowed, a study finds. Higher education has been linked to better social, financial, and health outcomes. Anne Case and Angus Deaton examined the relationship between education level and adult life expectancy, using data from the National Vital Statistical System to analyze mortality rates for 48.9 million adults. Individuals with a BA made continuous progress between 1990 and 2018 and could expect to live 48.2 years between the ages of 25 years and 75 years by the end of this period. By contrast, those without a BA showed a decline after 2010 and could expect to live only 45.1 years between the ages of 25 years and 75 years by 2018. Whites showed little progress in adult life expectancy, whereas Blacks made substantial gains until 2012, narrowing the long-standing racial gap by 70%. Currently, adult longevity is more strongly linked to a BA than to racial identity, in contrast to the situation in 1990. As a result, the authors report, Blacks with a BA now have a higher adult life expectancy than Whites without a BA. According to the authors, the current coronavirus pandemic is likely to further widen the educational divide in mortality.


Article #20-24777:
"Life expectancy in adulthood is falling for those without a BA degree but, as educational gaps have widened, racial gaps have narrowed" by Anne Case and Angus Deaton


Anne Case,
Princeton University, NJ;
tel: 609-285-2757;
email: <>;

Angus Deaton,
Princeton University, NJ;
email: <>

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