Why Are So Many of America’s Children Dying Young?

By David Wallace-Wells for the NY Times

How long a person can expect to live is one of the most fundamentally revealing facts about a country, and here, in the richest country in the world, the answer is not just bleak but increasingly so. Americans are now dying younger on average than they used to, breaking from all global and historical patterns of predictable improvement. They are dying younger than in any peer countries, even accounting for the larger impact of the pandemic here. They are dying younger than in China, Cuba, the Czech Republic or Lebanon.

You may think this problem is a matter of 70-year-olds who won’t live to see 80 or perhaps about the so-called deaths of despair among white middle-aged men. These were the predominant explanations five years ago, after the country’s longevity statistics first flatlined and then took a turn for the worse — alone among wealthy nations in the modern history of the world.

But increasingly the American mortality anomaly, which is still growing, is explained not by the middle-aged or elderly but by the deaths of children and teenagers. One in 25 American 5-year-olds now won’t live to see 40, a death rate about four times as high as in other wealthy nations. And although the spike in death rates among the young has been dramatic since the beginning of the pandemic, little of the impact is from Covid-19. Over three pandemic years, Covid-19 was responsible for just 2 percent of American pediatric and juvenile deaths.

Read more here.