Striving to Survive

In the case of the lifespan of the poor, where you live matters

Poverty is defined as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support. To but it bluntly it’s the condition of being poor. When impoverished, where you are geographically located can have an impact on your lifespan.

When you are above the poverty line life is fairly simple. You have a job, health care, a warm bed, and access to all of the resources you need to survive. The more money you have, the better the resources, the longer the lifespan.

Although America is a vastly opportunistic country, “46.7% of its citizens live at or below the poverty line” (census). Those living in pocerty struggle to make ends meet every day, striving to survive in a world where money and a stable job matter. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association “The top 1 percent in income among American men live 15 years longer than the poorest 1 percent; for women, the gap is 10 years.” While a wealthy American can thrive most anywhere, Poor Americans experience large lifespan differences in different places.

According to Harvard economist David M. Cutler, the “life expectancy for the poor is lowest in a large swath that cuts through the middle of the country, and it appears in pockets in the rest of the country, in places like Nevada”. He refers to this as the “drug overdose belt” due to the large opioid epidemic that is concentrated in this area. Drugs and alcohol are another piece to the mortality rate of poor Americans, seeing as they are experiencing much hardship in their lives and turn to these substances for comfort.

One may think that the the lifespan of those in poverty has to do with the fact that they have no available health care. In reality what affects it most is the “small-scale, local policies which help the poor adopt and maintain healthier habits which may succeed in extending their lives, regardless of whether they are rich or poor”(nytimes). Instead of thinking of the bigger picture, we need to think smaller and more local.

Areas with the highest life expectancy for the poor includes New York City. Here the survival rate for poor men is 79.5% and for poor women 84%. “New York has a high rate of social spending on low-income residence, and has been aggressive in regulating trans fats and smoking.” (nytimes). New York is also a great place to get exercise in the form of walking due to the abundance of sidewalks and people avoiding the busy car traffic. They are putting more of a focus on bettering the standard of living for citizens and creating access to social, educational, and economic opportunity for the poor.

It’s not a matter of wealth in the grand scheme of things, it’s a matter of health. Areas promoting higher health standards for all citizens including the poor will have a higher life expectancy. The healthier you are the better chance you have at surviving.


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