It isnt often that economics raises the most profound questions of human existence, but the recent work of economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton (wife and husband, both of Princeton University) comes close. You may recall that a few years ago, Case and Deaton reported the startling finding that the death rates of non-Hispanic middle-aged whites had gotten worse they were dying younger.
The results were startling because longer life expectancies have been a reliable indicator of improvement in the human condition. In 1940, U.S. life expectancy at birth was 63 years; by 2010, it was 79…

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