Sunday, August 2, 2009

US First In Life Expectancy; Better Than OECD Countries

From a post on the Angry Bear Blog about a University of Iowa Study by Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider, "How Does the U.S. Health-Care System Compare to Systems in Other Countries?":
So the authors controlled for the differing non-health care related deaths to develop a life expectancy table that could more accurately reflect the relationship between health care quality and life expectancy: [Table omitted]

The US jumps from 15th on the list with a life expectancy of 75.3 to 1st with a life expectancy of 76.9.
Read the complete blog post here.
See the authors' summary slide presentation here.

I also posted a similar response on Econlog to a post by Arnold Kling, "Life Expectancy Statistics."


  1. Thanks for the link Milton. I will have a counter-post up in a few days, not so narrow as this one. You are always welcome to come by.

    The point is valid. Sammy is a conservative reader and reminded us of this study.

  2. Umm... look at the PDF you linked to. The results you quote are from Table 1-5. The slides don't mention how the normalization was done (I guess that's in Ohsfeldt and Schneider's book), but it seems that it used a convoluted if not absurd methodology, apparently somehow involving the mysterious data from Table 1-3.

    My point is: under any reasonable standardization, you would expect the life expectancy of any country to increase after taking into account murder and car accidents (unless, of course, most people involved in these acts are older than the actual mean for that country, which is pretty much never the case).

    Nevertheless, the life expectancies for 10 of the 16 countries actually decreases after standardization. That's extremely weird. It seems like the authors massaged the data using a shoddy methodology to show what they wanted it to show. I guess I'll have to buy the book, but so far this looks very fishy.

  3. To Anonymous,

    Life expectancy is the weighted average of deaths due to medical conditions and illnesses and deaths due to injuries from accidents, homicides, etc.

    Countries have different rates of accidental deaths, which leads to different life expectancy numbers, even if all other things are equal.

    Ohsfedlt and Schneider standardized the data for life expectancy by substituting the average OECD injury rate for the country's actual rate.

    Like all averages, some countries have an injury rate below the average and some have a rate above the average.

    Those countries with injury rates below average will see their life expectancies decrease and those countries with injury rates above average will see their life expectancies increase.