Zip code should not determine life expectancy

Emily Murphy, Contributing Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The ever-increasing income gap is not just creating a schism between the rich and the poor, but could be the determining factor between life and death for some, especially those living in the South. Though life expectancy in the United States has increased overall, these extra years are not being added onto the lives of everyone. People must be aware of this and consider ways to correct this problem, through service or other means.

The report highlights that although some gaps have been ‘narrowed,’ socioeconomic status is proving to be an increasingly influential predictor of how long one will live. Already recognized impacts on longevity of life are segregation, in which New Orleans ranks 34th in the United States, and heart disease concerns. Now scholars are adding socioeconomic standing to the list.

Not unbeknownst to the city of New Orleans, social stratification is something that can be seen in neighboring communities. The lack of opportunities for those who are intertwined in this economic divide was what once contributed to extreme stress rates and now has gone so far as to be linked with longevity. This is evident in the drastic disparity between those residing within the zip code 70112, where there is a life expectancy of 54 years old, to those with the zip code 70124 that are projected to live until about 80 years old. The overall national average is 78 years old.

Ongoing research has been conducted about the factors that affect how long someone will live and there are clearly advantages to living in some parts of New Orleans as compared to other areas, according to Andre Perry, head of research and the associate director for educational initiatives at Loyola University New Orleans.

This is not only specific to New Orleans, but the South as a whole. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that those residing in the South, and especially black people, were projected to live shorter when comparing residents across the United States. Another factor the study focused on was median income, which many of the southern states fall behind in.

Intuitively, this makes sense. Residents from neighborhoods with fewer fiscal opportunities often drop out of high school, or become entangled in crime. When this is added to the hardships of poverty, the stress can be detrimental to one’s health. Though no concrete solution is given, Perry indicates that a comprehensive strategy must be taken in order to improve the conditions of health education in hopes of evening out life expectancy, even in areas where socioeconomic status appears debilitating.

This is a huge issue that is collectively costing the city of New Orleans an incredible amount of life. Options to begin correcting this issue would be to invest more in less affluent neighborhoods, offer more job training programs and increase the minimum wage. Though many of the reasons for this disparity cannot be corrected with one action, awareness and planning could help reduce these numbers in the long run.

Emily is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]