Politics & Polls #43: Why Are ‘Deaths of Despair’ Plaguing Middle-Aged White Americans?

Thursday, May 11, 2017
by Julian Zelizer & Sam Wang

President Donald Trump pledged to bring jobs back to America during his campaign, appealing to a strong middle class base that’s been struggling with stagnant wages and few job opportunities.

Since the 1990s, death rates among this demographic — specifically middle-aged white Americans without college degrees — have been on the rise thanks to opioid addiction, alcohol abuse and suicide. This same pattern isn’t seen in other parts of the world, reversing decades of progress.

Economist Anne Case, whose landmark study with co-author Sir Angus Deaton first detected the rise in mortality rates, joins this episode to discuss why “deaths of despair” are plaguing middle-aged white Americans. Listen to "Politics & Polls."