“Life getting shorter for women in hundreds of U.S. counties”: I’d like to see a graph of relative change in death rates, with age on the x-axis

(by Andrew Gelman)

Dan Kahan points me to this news article by Mike Alberti:

Every generation born in the United States has lived longer than the one before, and so it has been easy to assume that the upward trend would continue. But while life expectancy in the country as a whole has continued to rise steadily for the last twenty years, a new study shows that life expectancy for women has actually declined during this period in 313 U.S. counties, most in the Southeast, the Southern Midwest, and Appalachia. Life expectancy for men, by contrast, only declined in six counties (although the study did find that men in these same areas tended to have worse outcomes than men elsewhere). In what some experts have dubbed a public health crisis, these findings mean that children born today in many parts of the United States can expect to live shorter lives than their parents.

Here’s the map:

Changes in years of life expectancy for women in U.S. counties, 1987-2007

LifeExpectancy640.png

Source:Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

My main thought is I’d like to see where these changes are coming from.
“Life expectancy” is calculated based on death rates at each age at different time points (see here).  If life expectancy is going down, then death rates at some age groups are going up.  I’d like to see where this is happening.
This would be more helpful, I think, then speculating based on averages.  I mean, sure, averages are fine.  But if you have the underlying data (which they must have, otherwise they couldn’t have computed teh life expectancies), then let’s take a look!
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The Statistics Forum, brought to you by the American Statistical Association and CHANCE magazine, provides everyone the opportunity to participate in discussions about probability and statistics and their role in important and interesting topics.

The views expressed here are those of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the ASA, its officers, or its staff. The Statistics Forum is edited by Andrew Gelman.

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