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It has long been known that despite well-documented improvements in longevity for most Americans, alarming disparities persist among racial groups and between the well-educated and those with less education. An article published by Health Affairs Journal provides a historical overview on the impact of these factors in the population’s longevity. It also examines the disparities observed in the context of a rapidly aging society that’s emerging at a time of optimism about the next revolution in longevity.

To have an idea of the gap, in 2008, adult men and women with fewer than 12 years of education had life expectancies much similar to those of adults in the 1950s and 1960s. When race and education are added, the disparity is even more striking. In 2008, white US men and women with 16 years or more of schooling had life expectancies far greater than black Americans with fewer than 12 years of education – 14.2 years more for white men than black men, and 10.3 years more for white women than black women.

These gaps widened over time and have led to at least two “Americas”; of the successful white people and the black and others with little schooling. The message is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.

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