This study updates earlier findings regarding changes in the relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and life expectancy (at birth) between 1970 and 1990. In a sample randomly drawn from each of eight of the nine census divisions of the United States, the earlier study found that High SES populations in seven of the eight states gained additional life expectancy over Low SES populations between 1970 and 1990. In the remaining state, the gap between High and Low SES populations found in 1970 narrowed by 1990, but did not disappear. Thus, High SES populations had higher average life expectancy than Low SES populations both in 1970 and in 1990. In the process of conducting this research, it became apparent that the life expectancy gains observed between 1970 and 1990 for both low and High SES populations did not continue from 1990 to 2010. This finding was neither wholly unexpected nor an active focus of the research. However, because the finding fits within the debate on the limits to human longevity, it seemed worthwhile to report it. Thus, the current study offers two major findings. First, the average life expectancy gap between high and Low SES populations found in 1990 has persisted to 2010; second, average life expectancy gains are far less for the Low SES population between 1990 and 2010 than was found for 1970 to 1990; and third, average life expectancy gains for the High SES populations effectively came to a halt between 1990 and 2010. These results have implications for the relationship between social inequality and health outcomes. They also confirm that the United States did not meet one of two key national health policy goals: the elimination of health disparities by 2010.


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