The wealthier you are, the longer you’ll live. And if you’re a low-income woman, you’re less likely than an earlier generation to make it to your 55th birthday.
That’s the conclusion of a harrowing study by economist Barry Bosworth of the Brookings Institution, analyzing data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study which measured life expectancy at 55 across income ranges and gender, comparing a cohort born in 1920 with one born in 1940.
The findings were fleshed out into charts by the Wall Street Journal, which illustrate a growing correlation between income level and life expectancy for men and women. In the lower end of the income distribution, the story is particularly devastating for women. While even the poorest men have seen their life expectancy at 55 go up, women in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution are less likely to make it to 55.
Here’s what the data say for men:
And for women:
The real horror story is in the change for low-income women:
“At the bottom of the distribution, life is not improving rapidly for women anymore,” Bosworth said, according to the Journal. “Smoking stands out as a possibility. It’s much more common among women at lower income levels.”
The findings are particularly noteworthy as the gulf between the rich and poor in the U.S. surges to unprecedented levels.