The top 10% live longer

Do the rich really live longer?3591772_l

Well…Australia’s population hit 24 million recently, due to immigration as well as the fact that people are living longer.

And research shows that the wealthier you are the longer you are likely to live.

This is no doubt due to better education and lifestyles choices.

Economist Barry Bosworth at the Brookings Institution analysed the numbers and found that the richer you are, the longer you’ll live.

And it’s a gap that is widening, particularly for women.

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When combined with other longitudinal data which tracked the same people every two years during their lives, the results provided even more good news with men of all income levels living longer. 

However the data shows that the life expectancy of the wealthy is growing much faster than the life expectancy of the poor.  

The data has many amazing insights such as looking at a man who was born in 1940 and seeing that during the 1980s, the mid-point of his career, his income was in the top 10% for his age group.
The research suggests that if that man lives to 55 he can expect to live an additional 34.9 years or to the age of 89.9.

That’s six years longer than a man whose career followed the same arc, but who was born in 1920.

For men who were in the poorest 10%, they can expect to live another 24 years, only a year and a half longer than his 1920s counterpart but nearly 11 years less than his counterpart born in the same year but who is wealthier.

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At every income level, both those born in 1920 and 1940, women live longer than men – as we have known for some time.

But for women, the longevity and income trends are even more striking because while the wealthiest women from the 1940s are living longer, the poorest 40% are seeing life expectancy decline from the previous generation.

At the bottom of the group, life isn’t improving rapidly for women anymore.

A reason for this may be that smoking still continues to be relatively common amongst women at lower income levels.

When we think about people born today, their life expectancy is well beyond what most of us could dream of.

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In fact, I was fascinated to read in Quartz that one third of babies born in Britain in 2015 will live to 100, which is an extraordinary statistic. Wage gap concept for feminism

Bosworth’s findings build off earlier American research, which also documented the widening gap at the interplay of incomes and longevity.

Researchers studying life expectancy use actuarial calculations for their estimates, as precise outcomes can’t be known until an entire generation has passed away.

Bosworth analysed the data to evaluate whether raising the retirement age was a good idea.

He says that if it turns out people at the bottom are not having an increase in life expectancy, they are getting a real reduction in social security, or the pension, as a result.

What this means it that they’re going to get the pension for less years.

For example a wealthy man born in 1920 who retired at age 65, could expect to draw the pension for 19 years.

His son, born in 1940 and retired at age 67, could expect to draw benefits for 24 years, which means, yes, he retired later, but he’s living longer.

This would not be true for men and women at the bottom, as they would draw the pension for fewer years, if the retirement age rises, and their longevity does not.

Want more of this type of information?

Kate Forbes


Kate Forbes is a National Director Property Strategy at Metropole. She has 15 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

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