If you were a nerd in high school, I’ve got some good news. Remember all those kids who made your life miserable? Well, you’ll have the last laugh. You’re probably going to outlive them.
I made this discovery on the MIT alumni website where some figures for my class, 1962, jumped off the page. Here are the numbers. Our graduating class numbered 837– mostly male, mostly white, now typically 75 or 76 years old. Of that total 126 members have died and 30 are missing
Are the missing members dead? Maybe not. The 30 could be part of a very clever elite that has managed to escape the long reach of the Alumni Association. Or maybe the CIA or NSA won’t let them provide any public information. But even if you assume all 30 are dead and 156 of the original 837 are dead, you’ve still got 81 percent surviving.
That’s a big deal.
It’s a higher survival rate than you’ll find in the broad population. According to the United States Life Tables, only 62 percent of all males alive at 22 survive to 75. Among white males, only 63 percent alive at 22 survive to 75.
Indeed, the survival rate for the MIT class of 62’, at 81 percent, is about the same as the survival rate for all white males at age 65, when life expectancy is about 17 years. So if the class of 1962 survival rate continues on its current path, life expectancy for the class of 1962 may be about 92 years.
If such longevity were unique to MIT it could be part of a recruiting drive: “MIT. Study here. Live long and prosper.” All delivered by a holographic resurrection of Spock from Star Trek.
But longevity isn’t unique to MIT. It’s very likely that you’d find similar survival rates up the river at Harvard or across the country at Stanford. In fact, the longevity benefit is far more widely distributed.
People with more education tend to have more income. And people with both tend to live longer than people with less education and less income. According to Social Security actuaries, the top half of the Social Security wage base can expect to live nearly 5 years longer than the bottom half. Those in the top 10 percent of the wage base can expect to live about 10 years longer than the bottom 10 percent.
You could say that education is a matter of life and death. Literally.
In the past, this hasn’t been a problem. The facts of life and death were a source of pride because everyone was making progress, even if some were making less progress than others. Black men, for instance, don’t live as long as white men, but the gap has been closing as expectancies for black men rise faster than expectancies for white men.
Today the facts of life and death have become a source of national shame. Several years ago a study by S. Jay Olshansky and others found that life expectancy for less educated white people actually declined by about 5 years between 1990 and 2008--- even as broadly measured
life expectancies continued to advance.
Last year the findings were confirmed when economics Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and his wife Anne Case published a paper showing that life expectancy for less educated, lower income white men and women had actually declined by, yes, 5 years.
This is a big deal. This isn’t an income gap. It’s a big, raw life gap. One estimate was that the life expectancy of white women without a high school diploma was only 73.5 years. The life expectancy for white men without high school diplomas was even lower, only 67.5 years.
How bad is that?
Think troubled Third World country. The expectancy figure for this group of American women is now lower than life expectancy at birth in places like Bosnia (76.55 years), Libya (76.26), China (75.41) and Serbia (75.26) but about equal to the expectancy in Uzbekistan (73.55) and Peru (73.48).
The expectancy figure for this group of American men is lower than life expectancy at birth in Bangladesh (70.94), Russia (70.47), or India (68.13) but about the same as Nepal (67.52).
So if you have a college education, but lack a mission in life, start thinking about what we can do to bring all Americans into the First World.