Last week, I predicted that the recent Harvard study on life expectancy would produce all manner of disingenuous stories in the establishment media and the blogosphere. While this prediction didn’t exactly require the prescience of Nostradamus, it is nonetheless gratifying to be proven right.

The award for the dumbest response goes to AmericaBlog, where Bush is blamed for isolated declines that occurred before he became President, and the award for the most tendentious response goes to the NYT.  Bryan Caplan captures its essence at EconLog:

I while back I argued that it’s easy to detect media bias from headlines alone. A recent NYT piece on life expectancy makes my point for me better than I ever could. The facts: U.S. life expectancy for all income levels rose. The headline: “Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation.”

Russell Roberts, over at Cafe Hayek,  also comments on the essential lameness of the NYT piece:

Evidently, smoking, obesity and diabetes are bad for your health. So is sickness. Death is bad for your life expectancy. So discovers the New York Times.

It is just this kind of journalism, as practiced at the NYT and many other “news” organizations, that is causing thinking readers to relegate the bird cage liners to the dust bin of history.

Comments 6

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    Your callousness would shock if it wasn’t so common – the facts are clear. A widening gap between rich and poor is shocking enough and a terrible indictment of your country and also the UK, where it is also happening thanks to economic policies. But life expectancy has actually gone down for some groups in the US, as that other recent research shows. You should be ashamed – why aren’t you?

    Posted 29 Apr 2008 at 8:49 am
  2. Joe C. wrote:


    Are you trying to link the drop in life expectancy for certain groups to economic inequality even though the Harvard researchers emphatically deny this is the case?

    Allow me to recap for you:

    “The declines weren’t strongly associated with race or income, and instead appeared to cluster primarily in certain regions …”

    It appears that lifestyle choices, like smoking and overeating, play a strong role in these declines. Since I have little control over what other people do, there is little for me to be ashamed of personally. It is a sad trend to be sure, but there’s no need to force your faux piety down our throats.

    Posted 29 Apr 2008 at 1:34 pm
  3. Marc Brown wrote:

    Joe, don’t rely on what you read in right wing newspapers. Go read the paper.

    Posted 29 Apr 2008 at 3:51 pm
  4. Joe C. wrote:

    Is your contention that this pattern turns entirely on the health care system and not lifestyle choices?

    Posted 30 Apr 2008 at 7:34 am
  5. Joe C. wrote:


    Have you been to the US lately? We’ve got fat bastards everywhere. In some places they seem to be in the majority. Amusement parks now have special seats to accommodate larger riders. With the high rate of obesity, drug and alcohol use, horrible diets it’s a miracle that the US is able to keep its life expectancy in pace with other developed countries at all.

    Posted 30 Apr 2008 at 7:38 am
  6. Rich wrote:

    Joe, don’t waste your breath (fingertips?). If they are fat, it is clearly because of a society and government that fails to intervene and keep them from becoming fat. It is not their fault, and therefore not their responsibility. It is the fault of a capitalist government which widens disparities not only in income, but in geography! Clearly, those areas of the country with declining longevity need broad based, governmental intervention funded by increased taxes on those who have been appropriately coerced by the government to stay healthy long enough to earn an income large enough from which to extort taxes.

    The general public is clearly not smart enough to make lifestyle decisions without the help of a bigger, well funded government. Heck, next thing you know, the government will be telling dentists that they work too much, and need a vacation. Oh, wait a minute…

    Posted 30 Apr 2008 at 10:16 am

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