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ETpro's avatar

What Does Your Life Expectancy Have to Do with Your Zip Code?

Asked by ETpro (34208 points ) October 10th, 2013

Everything, according to inner city teacher, Clint Smith. In his video, Place Matters, Smith explains the role your zip code plays in your life expectancy. Is this something we will ever fix?

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10 Answers

Seek's avatar

This is an example of correlation not equalling causation, obviously.

One doesn’t die young because of the numbers in the code, they due young because that code happens to belong to an area high in gang violence, and low in income and health insurance coverage rates.

zenvelo's avatar

Location, location, location.

Zip Code is a good way to define a particular area. Those particular areas tend to be homogeneous as to income, education, access to healthcare, exposure to environmental hazards, and economic opportunity.

But you can say neighborhood instead of zip code, and arrived at the same conclusion, yet without a catchy pre-described boundary.

JLeslie's avatar

Makes sense to me. You would have to really look at the causes though for it to mean anything. It would for sure be a mix of reasons. Cultural norms, medical care available, pollution, evenngenetics might play a role.

flutherother's avatar

Good question. When I had a health check recently they came close to prescribing statins for me. I was surprised at this as was the nurse. She thought it might be my postcode and when she changed it I was fine and statins were not required. Using postcodes to decide what medication to prescribe seems crazy to me.

ETpro's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Lord, I hope nobody assumed I as asking if there mas some supernatural numerological effect in play. I had thought the video would make it clear that was not the case.

@zenvelo Boston has a neighborhood called the North End. It has parts of 4 zip-codes in it. The neighborhood is pretty definitive, whereas what’s included in the zip codes varies a great deal. So you’re right, neighborhood might be a more fine-grained description.

@JLeslie The causes are the stuff of a whole separate question.

@flutherother Gah! If a doctor tried to prescribe medications to me based on zip code, they would have written themselves a prescription to lose a patient.

Seek's avatar

@ETpro, that’s probably so. I’m on a mobile phone in an area with poor service, so I rarely get to enjoy the videos you post.

ETpro's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Oh, sorry then.

mattbrowne's avatar

Poor parenting and poor education cause lower incomes in adult live which cause residence in low-income neighborhoods tied to zip-codes (on average).
Poor parenting and poor education cause lower life expectancy due to bad lifestyle choices (food, exercise, violent behavior etc. on average).

Zip-codes and life expectancy correlate because they have the same root cause.

There are successful people, despite having experienced poor parenting and poor education.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I agree with Matt: Poverty affects the quality and amount of time parents get with their children. But most of all, I believe hopelessness, a lack of faith in the system and the future is the worst byproduct of poverty. I offer no solutions as I don’t believe America is ready yet to properly address the problem, to diagnose the disease. But here are the symptoms:

The most graphic illustration of which your question implies is found within two zip codes, which are worlds apart in demographics, but are only about 5 miles apart geographically:
48211 and 48236

Here you can see the average income in 48211 of <$6,000/yr living in homes averaging $36,000 in value, 45% of which are rented, compared to their neighbors in 48236 who enjoy incomes >$121,000/year in homes averaging $200,000 in value, 7% of which are rented. This is an American city. The discrepancy between infant mortality rates, life expectancy, education, home prices, renter-to-owner ratios are equal to or greater than that of middle class America and many third world countries.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Frederic Douglas was a former slave torn away from his mother as an infant, and sold. He went on to be one of the early nation’s most compelling speaker denouncing the inhumanity of slavery. But a Frederick Douglas comes along once in a century. As you not, for all the others, we need to raise our voices and understand that it is a very complex problem with no easy, bumper-sticker solutions.

@Espiritus_Corvus An excellent definition of the challenge. We can fix this. And out nation will be better for doing so.

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