Magazine May 4, 2020, Issue

What’s Behind the Rise in Deaths of Despair?

From the cover of Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (Princeton University Press)
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Princeton University Press, 312 pp., $27.95)

In 2015, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton garnered a lot of media coverage for an academic paper documenting a rise in “deaths of despair” — from alcohol, suicide, and drugs — among American whites, especially middle-aged whites without a college degree. Now they have fleshed out their thoughts on the issue in a book. Their argument is that in order to combat this plague, the U.S. needs to boost wages, bring back unions, fight crony capitalism, and deeply reform the health-care system.

If that strikes you as a preexisting wish list that’s been tacked on to a problem that happened

(Source: Social Capital Project analyses of CDC data. Prior to 1998, the trend includes Hispanic whites.)

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This article appears as “What Drives Deaths of Despair?” in the May 4, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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