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Life expectancy in years barely rises for men and women in Putnam county, Florida, between 1989 and 2009, while it rises significantly for men and women in St. Johns county during the same time.
Guess which of these is the richer county?
That life expectancy is increasing for rich people much more quickly than for poor people is well established. But since the doubters on that fact include much of the policy and punditry establishment, here are some more data points:
A study published last week in the journal Health Affairs said that in almost half of the nation’s counties, women younger than 75 are dying at rates higher than before. The counties where women’s life expectancy is declining typically are in the rural South and West, the report said.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring counties of St. Johns and Putnam, Florida, life expectancy in the wealthier St. Johns has risen substantially in the past 20 years—by four years for women and six years for men. In Putnam, where 38 percent of the children live in poverty, life expectancy for women has risen less than a year since 1989, while men have seen a one and a half year increase. Men and women in Putnam live about seven years and five years less, respectively, than men and women in St. Johns.

No matter what the retirement age is, poorer people have fewer years of retirement. And if you raise the retirement age, you're cutting benefits for poorer people by a greater percentage. Men in Putnam county have a life expectancy of 71, which means that with a retirement age of 67, they live just four years in retirement. Raise the retirement age to 70, and it'll be just over a year.

What that means, Global Policy Solutions' Maya Rockeymoore points out, is that "People who are shorter-lived tend to make less, which means that if you raise the retirement age, low-income populations would be subsidizing the lives of higher-income people." Which may actually be the point, as far as people like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are concerned.

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