A recent study has come up with some shocking news: life expectancy of the least educated white Americans, both men and women, is going down. White women without a high school diploma now live five years less on the average than they did 20 years ago: for white male dropouts, the decline is three years.
This is a calamity matched only by the six-year decline in longevity among Russian men in the waning years of Communism there. But that decline, blamed on rampant alcoholism, has been mostly reversed.
What's going on here? No one really knows, but my bet is that the cause is economic -- the collapse of the industrial, steady, low-wage jobs that once supported even the least-educated Americans. These people once were lower middle-class. Now they're just poor, the losers in the global economy, increasingly cut off from jobs, a steady income and, not incidentally, decent health care.