Skip to content

No, no, they don’t

Life-expectancy gap: babies in wealthiest areas will live 12 years longer

People who die in wealthy areas die 12 years later, on average, than people who die in poor areas.

That’s what we actually measure – age and place of birth. There is no linkage – none, never, anywhere – in the system between place of birth and age at death.

Lifespans are undoubtedly influenced by wealth. But how much migration is there over a lifetime?

20 thoughts on “No, no, they don’t”

  1. Perhaps mobility rather than migration? If you’re born in a slum and die in a slum the odds may be against you living as long as if you had been born in a slum and died in a palace. Equally, there will be travel in the other direction where someone was born into a clutch of palaces and yet dies in a gutter in California. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  2. If I hadn’t had the wealth to have a quad bi-pass, I’d probably have died about 12 or so years ago.

    Of course, if my parents couldn’t have afforded good care for me, I’d probably have died at birth.

    In other words Tim, I agree with you.

  3. I find your comments muddled, Tim. I might understand what’s going on if I knew how They calculate life expectancy for a town. I don’t suppose the journalist at the Sunday Times knows or cares. As long as They suppress the effects of Long Lockdown and Long Vaxx the predictions will be dishonest and worthless.

    Anyhoo, life expectancy is just a numerate guess at the future. Surely it’s possible, and better, to tabulate facts e.g. date of birth, place of birth, date of death, place of death. If somebody wanted to analyse census records they could even tweak out roughly how much time each individual spent living where. And/or correct for the obvious demographic variables – age, sex, race. Look at the effect of individual variables – e.g. health at birth, height and weight at birth, premature or full term, crime record, education … and anything else they could lay their hands on, and see if there is any magic residual effect of place of birth. Who knows, it might vanish.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a good correlation with IQ and with smoking, drinking, and drug-taking, but those would be hard to get hold of. Without those you might end up with a residual you attribute to location but which is, in fact, just a confounding of location with all the important variables you don’t know.

    Has anyone competent and honest ever published about this sort of thing?

  4. Life expectancy is calculated – the people who died in this town this year died at this average age. We then assume that babies born there this year will live that long.

    This entirely ignores how few people are actually born in the same town they die in. The smaller the unit measured (like, down to local population units of perhaps 3,000 people) then the worse this problem gets. It entirely ignores migration. Or, at the smaller levels, moving house.

  5. TMB,

    “Perhaps mobility rather than migration? If you’re born in a slum and die in a slum the odds may be against you living as long as if you had been born in a slum and died in a palace.”

    I don’t think it’s even that. You have to establish cause and effect. Is Merthyr making people less healthy, or do unhealthy people not leave Merthyr? If you suffer from some sort of chronic health condition that means you can’t work, you’re better off living in Merthyr than Ascot.

    Then there’s the correlation of “lazy people” and “people who spend their Saturdays drinking in Wetherspoons”. The sort of people necking pints of Stella all day aren’t doing accountancy exams that mean they leave some utter shithole. But there are people who get out, and of course, they don’t get counted in Utter Shithole’s figures.

  6. Tim writes: “Life expectancy is calculated – the people who died in this town this year died at this average age.”

    I am struggling to understand this. What Tim reports as called ‘life expectancy’ is surely really “death actuality”.

    And Tim writes: “We then assume that babies born there this year will live that long.”

    I am struggling to understand why that should be true. I start with “We”: I refuse to be included in that “we” as the equalising is patently unreasonable. Not least, healthcare generally improves with time, everywhere (though not everywhere equally); no matter where one lives it improves.

    Accordingly, those born in any particular year [who live their whole lives in the same town] will (major war and disaster apart) live longer on average than those who die in the same year [who live their whole lives in that same town].

    So, though I very much appreciate Dearieme’s efforts [as in “life expectancy is just a numerate guess at the future.”], I don’t really think it is a ‘numerate’ guess: my adjective (adjectival phrase) would be “crude lower limit”.

    Best regards

  7. It’s not that difficult really.

    Death certificates show where you died (these days often a hospital). The supporting documentation might show your last place of residence. They almost never would show where you were born (other than possibly the country if you still have a passport).

    If you are born in a rich area, then life expectancy would take into account your parents’ (almost never single) income as part of a calculation.

    We don’t have the information to run death statistics divided up into where you were born. Anybody doing so is using where you died as a proxy for where you were born.

  8. “We don’t have the information to run death statistics divided up into where you were born”

    Almost, but not quite. The data is out there on the long form death certificate. But those are not public, are not released even for statistical purposes.

    My source – Registrar of Ken ‘n’ C.

  9. “Life expectancy is calculated – the people who died in this town this year died at this average age. We then assume that babies born there this year will live that long.” Thanks; moronic, isn’t it?

    “the long form death certificate[s]… are not released even for statistical purposes.” Christsake, why not? We have Public Health plonkers who devote themselves to Applied Puritanism and to Lying About Pandemics and the buggers haven’t even organised anonymised data that might provide useful insights. String ’em up.

  10. It seems there is some confusion over the term “life expectancy”. This is a technical term from mathematics and does not mean what you would expect from the ordinary English meaning of the words. In mathematics, the “expected value” of a set is another way of describing the arithmetic mean. So “life expectancy” means the average age at death. For example, if we find everyone born in 1800 in Scotland, and work out their average age at death, this would be decribed as the life expectancy for people born in Scotlane in 1800. Obviously no prediction is required.

    However, we might want to know our best estimate for the average age at death for a set of people alive today. While this will also be usually referred to as their life expectancy, this is a different quantity as we have no way of knowing when they will acually die without waiting for it to happen. This means that the “life expectancy” for a group of people who are dead cannot safely be compared with the “life expectancy” of a group where many are still alive.

  11. The Death Certificate does state date and place of birth as well as date and place of death. However, the Registrar does not take any details of how long the person lived and where. And the place details are, shall we say, sketchy. My mother, for example, died in a hospital in a London Borough she seldom even visited in her lifetime. There is a field for “usual address” but no record of how long it was her usual address.

    Any conclusions about health in places derived from Death Certificates is going to be more or less garbage

  12. As usual I pressed return too soon…

    “There is no linkage – none, never, anywhere – in the system between place of birth and age at death.”

    The data is, however, collected and printed on the Death Certificate. The fact that the field might not be searchable is astonishing. Why bother collecting it?

  13. No, my point – the long form death certificate, which is not a public document. The short form does not include place of birth.

  14. A complication occurs to me. My mother’s Death certificate shows her maiden name but I don’t think there is a facility for people who change their name by deed poll. So tying together births and deaths might be complex

  15. Towns (e.g. Hartlepool/Consett/Runcorn) without universities have lower life expectancies compared to places that do. Quelle surprise given that smart people outmigrate from places like that and will likely die elsewhere.
    What needs to be looked at is what are the conditions that allow places to exist that create opportunities for bright people to come to and to get ahead, and then devolve the ability to apply those conditions to everywhere. Eddington in Cambridge builds to 4-storeys, Elwick Park, Hartlepool permits to 2-storeys. Might be many other reasons to consider of course.

  16. Cobblers. One needs to take a variety of pieces of info into account when setting life expectancy, one of which is occupation like being a cobbler.

    It’s basically wealth and health so proxies are used for these like postcode, former occupation and the point at which you are taking out the product. Throw in a bunch of statistical analysis to spit out a (very) rough estimate of the importance of each factor. This gives you some deterministic factors you know throw into a computer that estimates how long people will live.

    It’s absolutely useless at predicting how long an individual will live. But en mass it’s actually reasonably good.

    Key factors are how long everyone else has lived and how much improvement there will be. Clearly for a baby there is a long time for improvements in medical care to take place before the crunch point near death. For a 75 year old there are still quite a few years.

    However in the end everyone dies of something so if the cancer doesn’t get you the flu might, or COPD etc etc. There are a lot of ways to die. So the accuracy of any individual cause doesn’t have to be that great.

  17. Charles by the M3

    Re: TW’s comment at 13:55

    As a long-term family historian*, Tim has been fed a rather inaccurate view by the Registrar of Kensington and Chelsea:
    1). In England and Wales, since about 1971, the date of birth is a required field for the death registration.
    2). In England and Wales, all deaths from 1837 to 2021 are freely searchable online either on FreeBMD or the official GRO website.
    3). The GRO website provides the full forenames so there’s no problems with initials.

    Yes, I realise that there are quite a few people who die in England and Wales who were not born here, but it’s a trivial programming task to search for a matching England-and-Wales birth registration for a specified death. Talking nicely to both Irish registries, Scotland, and the other British Isles Registries would improve the results significantly.

  18. Charlles by the M3

    Note*:
    Rats, that’s what happens when swigging a nice Bordeaux red wine.

    I started tracing my own family history when I was 13 in the summer before I started studying for my O-levels. I’ve learned quite a lot since then …

  19. Reading the actual quote:
    Life-expectancy gap: babies in wealthiest areas will live 12 years longer
    Would seem entirely likely. Since one presumes a significant number of them will be starting out a member of the privileged & continue to be so. There’s no assumption in the quote about where they croak. Maybe the paywalled articles was saying something different.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *