Emily Oster’s graph of the year: Why is the U.S. falling behind in life expectancy?

December 26, 2013

Time has its "Person of the Year." Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year. Buzzfeed has its insane-stories-from-Florida of the year. And Wonkblog, of course, has its graphs of the year. For 2013, we asked some of the year's most interesting, important and influential thinkers to name their favorite graph of the year — and why they chose it. Here's Emily Oster's.

life expectancy chart

Amidst all the focus on health insurance, I think it’s crucial not to lose focus on the fact that -- insurance or not -- the United States is lagging behind in health status. This chart -- from a broader report -- demonstrates not only how low our life expectancy is relative to other developed countries, but also how far we have fallen even in the last 30 years. Why are we not realizing the same gains that countries with comparable incomes are?

Emily Oster is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School. Her book is "Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong."

See all the graphs of 2013 here, including entries from Jonathan FranzenBill McKibben, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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