Kathleen Geier makes a point I should have noticed. She points to the shocking story in yesterday’s Times about sharply declining life expectancies for less-educated whites, and points out that these declines took place at a time of rapidly rising income inequality. And we have lots of evidence that low socioeconomic status leads to higher mortality — even if you correct for things like availability of health insurance.
Some of the effects may come through self-destructive behavior, some through simple increased stress; think about what it feels like in 21st-century America to be a worker without even a high school degree. In any case, Geier is surely right: what we’re looking at is a clear demonstration of the fact that high inequality isn’t just unfair, it kills.