Where a person lives has a determining factor in life expectancy, as does the jobs, access to health and other components that make communities what they are.
These differences drive the longevity gap between racial groups – and it comes with a hefty price, a new AARP report found. There is the “human cost” component, said Jean Accius, senior vice president of AARP Global Thought Leadership, because of the loss of time spent with partners, family and friends. And there’s also the economic price tag: in 2030, the racial disparities in life expectancy could cost the U.S. $1.6 trillion.
“When people are marginalized or not able to contribute for as long as they can, there’s a cost to that,” Accius said.
This longevity gap will also cost the U.S. about 10 million jobs in 2030 and $934 billion in wages, as well as an annual loss of $1.1 trillion in total consumer spending by then.
Socioeconomic factors affect education levels, homeownership rates, employment, wages — and the life expectancy gap. Location is a huge driver in the disparity as well, as it determines such things as access to health care and good schooling, safety and opportunities for lucrative careers.
The pandemic has only emphasized these disparities, with a disproportionate number of deaths among Black and Latino Americans, and significant numbers of job losses and business failures, according to the report. Black Americans could have expected to live 4.1 years less than the average person in the U.S. in 2019, but by 2020, the difference was 5.5 years. If racial disparities were to be equalized, the average life expectancy for Black men and women would increase the average life expectancy in 2030 by 6.6 years and 5.5 years, respectively, in 2030, AARP said in its report (compared to 3.7 years for men and 3.8 years for women in general).
During the last two years of the pandemic, Black workers were also more likely to be pushed into retirement than their white counterparts, a report from the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis found.
With progress, there would be greater economic contributions by Americans 50 and older. As it stands, the economic contribution from this demographic will be worth $12.6 trillion in 2030, and a forecasted $26.8 trillion by 2050. But disparities hold this group and their contributions back. Take for example the discrepancies in unexpected retirements during the pandemic: Black Americans over 50 were more likely to leave the workforce during the pandemic because of health problems, Accius said.
AARP created a livability index, where users can input their zip codes and see a score based on a range of factors, including housing, transportation, health and opportunity.
“We all have a collective responsibility to look at neighborhoods and work across sectors public and private to look at ways we can ensure communities are livable,” Accius said.