The Rich Live Longer: So How Much Money 'Buys' 1 More Year of Life?
Climbing America's income ladder today is truly a game of life and delayed death—and thousands of dollars are separating the rungs.
Richer people live longer lives.
It's true for both men and women. It's true at virtually every income level. And it was the backbone of one of the most striking charts I've seen this year in the Wall Street Journal, based on research by Brookings scholar Barry Bosworth.
And it made me wonder: If more money "buys" more life, how much extra income buys one more year of living?
Yep, it's a cheeky question. Everybody knows that money doesn't literally buy life, or inoculate against disease, or prevent random car accidents. But if Bosworth's data showed that average lifespans grow with income, I wondered how much additional income was associated with exactly one more year of living after 55.
I contacted Brookings for the raw data, ran the numbers, and doubled-checked with Bosworth. For middle-class men now in their mid-60s and older, each $4,000 of extra mid-career income correlated with an extra year of life after 55. "You can’t say that making a certain amount of dollars guarantees more life,” Bosworth said. "What’s fine for you to say is that where the [per-earner] income goes up by about $4,000, that was generally associated with living another year."
This number might sound a little small to you: Is a $40,000 raise really associated with an extra decade of life? Well, hold on....MORE