recently I wrote about the trend of low HDI scores in the US South and Appalachia. This time I want to focus on a metric found from the same source. The metric of life expectancy from birth is actually a good way of comparing US congressional districts to other countries.

The CIA World Factbook has a listing of most nations’ average life expectancy from birth here. It’s important to note that because this is an actual year-based estimate, the rankings for congressional districts and countries is tightly ranked, and misreporting statistics from developing countries is a possibility. I want to stress that these are averages so while someone living 2 years less might not seem like much, but this is the result of everyone in a district/country living longer or shorter lives. Some of these statistics will make you question the world.

While I’ll mention the regional disparity briefly, I’d like to focus on the comparison of life expectancy with certain US congressional districts (CDs) and other countries as well.

Here is a map of the bottom 100 CDs in the US:

Many things stand out compared to the HDI graph representing the bottom 100, though the US South+Appalachia region is similarly represented in this map.

Firstly, the West Coast does considerably better than the East Coast, with only a single CD making the list west of Texas. Second, cities in many Eastern States have lower comparative life expectancies than their HDI suggests. Regions of the Rust Belt including North Ohio and the Detroit metro area score poorly. The mid-Atlantic cities Philadelphia and Baltimore do poorly, but the rest of the Northeast does well.

This map shows the bottom 25 districts in the US, these districts only live 72 to to 75 years on average (I’ll provide a complete table of average life expectancy later).

Much like the bottom 25 districts by HDI, the bottom 25 in life expectancy are almost all inside the US South and Appalachian regions. The Mississippi embayment and the Kentucky-West Virginia border are the worst hit.

Here is a listing of the bottom 100 districts by age. But I’ve added a column for countries with similar life expectancies for the bottom 50. I got these numbers here and here.

West Virgini 3 72.9 Egypt 72.66
Kentucky 5 73.6  Thailand 73.6
Mississippi 2 73.6 Bulgaria 73.59
Alabama 4 74.3 Serbia 74.32
Pennsylvania 2 74.4 Mauritius 74.48
Oklahoma 2 74.5 Algeria 74.5
Pennsylvania 1 74.5 Colombia 74.55
Georgia 2 74.6 China 74.68
Alabama 3 74.7 Syria 74.69
Alabama 7 74.7 Cook Islands 74.7
Louisiana 7 74.8 Hungary 74.79
Arkansas 1 74.8 Tunisia 75.01
Tennessee 8 75.0 Lebanon 75.01
Tennessee 9 75.0 West Bank 75.01
Mississippi 3 75.0  Macedonia 75.14
North Caroli 1 75.0 Tonga 75.16
Louisiana 5 75.0 ” “
Arkansas 4 75.1 ” “
Georgia 1 75.1 ” “
Missouri 8 75.1 ” “
Alabama 1 75.1 ” “
Georgia 8 75.1 ” “
Mississippi 4 75.2 ” “
South Caroli 6 75.3 Lithuania 75.34
Florida 4 75.3 ” “
Louisiana 4 75.3 ” “
Mississippi 1 75.4 Antigua and Barbuda 75.48
Georgia 12 75.4 ” “
Arkansas 2 75.4 ” “
Michigan 13 75.4 ” “
Michigan 14 75.4 ” “
Kentucky 1 75.5 ” “
Maryland 7 75.5 ” “
Louisiana 6 75.5 ” “
District of Columbia 75.6 ” “
Louisiana 1 75.6 ” “
Oklahoma 4 75.6 ” “
South Caroli 5 75.7  Ecuador 75.73
Louisiana 3 75.7 Croatia 75.79
Alabama 2 75.7
Alabama 6 75.7
Tennessee 1 75.7
Virginia 9 75.7
West Virgini 2 75.9  Morocco 75.9
Louisiana 2 75.9
Tennessee 4 75.9
Oklahoma 5 76.0  Poland 76.05
North Caroli 7 76.0
Oklahoma 3 76.0
Oklahoma 1 76.0
Virginia 3 76.0
Alabama 5 76.1
Texas 1 76.1
Ohio 6 76.2
Kentucky 4 76.3
Illinois 12 76.3
South Caroli 3 76.3
Texas 13 76.4
Tennessee 7 76.4
Virginia 4 76.5
Georgia 3 76.5 Mexico 76.47
Texas 8 76.5
Michigan 5 76.6
Tennessee 6 76.6
Kentucky 3 76.6
Tennessee 3 76.6
Indiana 7 76.6
Texas 5 76.6
Michigan 11 76.7
North Caroli 10 76.7
Missouri 5 76.7
West Virgini 1 76.7
North Caroli 3 76.7
South Caroli 4 76.7
Texas 19 76.8
North Caroli 8 76.8
Texas 2 76.8
Georgia 11 76.9
Ohio 15 76.9
North Caroli 2 76.9
Maryland 3 76.9
Indiana 1 76.9
California 2 76.9
Georgia 10 76.9
Maryland 2 77.0
Ohio 17 77.0
Ohio 9 77.0
Missouri 4 77.1
North Caroli 5 77.1
Virginia 5 77.1
Kansas 4 77.1
Indiana 8 77.1
Wisconsin 4 77.2
Missouri 3 77.2
Tennessee 2 77.2
Ohio 10 77.2
Ohio 11 77.2
Tennessee 5 77.2
Indiana 6 77.2
Texas 14 77.2

Surprisingly, many countries perform better than US congressional districts. Eastern Kentucky has the same life expectancy of someone in Thailand, think about that for a second. Not only are parts of the US much lower than the US average, they’re actually much lower than most developed countries. The US  ranks 50th overall on the CIA World Factbook, th0ugh a number of meaningless micro-states and dependent territories distort this ranking somewhat. US life expectancy raises many important questions about access to healthcare and our dietary habits among other things.

Finally, I want to point out that some of these statistics are hard to accept. Jordan ranks higher than the Netherlands, for example. and Bosnia, despite its violent recent history has a higher life expectancy than Denmark. I’m not necessarily accusing these countries of outright dishonesty, but perhaps their methodology was vulnerable to inaccuracies. There are hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Jordan, many of them weren’t born in hospitals so its possible that age estimates could be wrong. This isn’t the first time I’ve suspected this, in a much earlier blog on female literacy I found that the country of Georgia claims 100% literacy, despite having a GDP per capita lower than Syria, and a very rare and complicated language, in addition to smaller languages like Tsez being spoken. Take these statistics for what you will, its intriguing no less.

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