The Income Gap’s Impact on Life Expectancy

Oct. 15, 2019

Shoshanna Levine and Ben Spoer

American Communities Project

You might expect that some groups of people will live longer than others — women live longer than men, non-smokers live longer than smokers, and librarians live longer than coal miners. But what about differences based on where you live and your income?

According to data developed by the United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project (USALEEP) and analyzed by the City Health Dashboard team, residents of Gary, Indiana, the city with the shortest life expectancy and part of the Middle Suburbs in Lake County, live an average of 71.4 years, while residents of Newton, Massachusetts, the city with the longest life expectancy and part of the Urban Suburbs in Middlesex County, live an average of 84.7 years. And there are huge gaps between the neighborhoods with the longest and shortest life expectancies. In Gary, people who live just west of Marquette Park live on average to 77, while just a few miles west, residents live an average of 64 years.


Factors such as crime, environmental toxins, and the availability of safe and affordable housing can all impact people’s ability to live long, healthy lives. Researchers are also now looking closely at the impact that income inequality has on how long and well people live. According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the gap between the rich and poor is the widest it has been in 50 years. Income inequality is associated with poor health outcomes for city residents, such as higher heart failure rates and poorer mental health. The potential effect on life expectancy seems clear.

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