Large slum, poor living conditions.

Wanneer ongelijkheid dodelijk is

NEW YORK – Deze week zal Angus Deaton de Nobelprijs voor de Economie in ontvangst mogen nemen “voor zijn analyse van het verband tussen consumptie, armoede en welzijn.” En dat is verdiend ook. Al snel na de bekendmaking van de prijs in oktober publiceerde Deaton samen met Ann Case een aantal verbluffende onderzoeksresultaten in de Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences die minstens net zo nieuwswaardig zijn als de Nobel-ceremonie.

Door de analyse van een grote hoeveelheid gegevens over de gezondheid van en doodsoorzaken onder Amerikanen toonden Case en Deaton een dalende levensverwachting en gezondheid aan voor blanke Amerikanen van middelbare leeftijd, vooral voor diegenen met alleen een middelbare schoolopleiding of minder. Tot de oorzaken behoorden zelfmoord, drugs en alcoholisme.

Amerika is er trots op een van 's werelds meest welvarende landen te zijn, en kan zich erop beroemen dat het bbp per hoofd van de bevolking ieder recent jaar – behalve in 2009 – is gestegen. En een aanwijzing voor welvaart zou een goede gezondheid en een lange levensverwachting moeten zijn. Maar hoewel de VS per hoofd van de bevolking meer geld aan gezondheidszorg uitgeven dan vrijwel ieder ander land (ook als percentage van het bbp), staat het land qua levensverwachting zeker niet aan de top. Frankrijk besteedt bijvoorbeeld minder dan 12% van zijn bbp aan gezondheidszorg, tegen 17% voor de VS. Toch leven Amerikanen gemiddeld drie jaar korter dan de Fransen.

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