DEATH & SOCIAL INEQUALITY
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DEATH & SOCIAL INEQUALITY
Photograph by Kevin Carter, the Sudan
In Plagues and Peoples, historian William McNeill speculates how the Indian caste system developed as Indian civilization encountered disease as they incorporated the “forest people,” resulting in strict separation of groups and taboos against physical contract (p.91).
Children at their shanty homes built on top of tombs in a graveyard in the northern Manila port district of Navotas, one of the world's most densely populated areas.
Death as a Measure of Life
THE INEQUALITY OF LIFE CHANCES Out of the 1,308 passengers on board the Titanic in 1912, 416 survived. Taken together, 60 percent of the first class survived, 40 percent of the second, and but 25 percent of the third. The crew fared badly as well, with only 24 percent surviving.
And like the Titanic, it was the lower classes who lived beneath the waterline in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Like the doomed lower class passengers in 1912, these were the individuals who disproportionately perished.
Photograph by Thomas Dworzak
And what inferences do you make about social conditions where death is routinely part of everyday life?
What a shocked world saw exposed in New Orleans wasn't just a broken levee. It was a cleavage of race and class, at once familiar and startlingly new, laid bare in a setting where they suddenly amounted to matters of life and death. Hydrology joined sociology throughout the story line, from the settling of the flood-prone city, where well-to-do white people lived on the high ground, to its frantic abandonment. --Jason DeParle. “What Happens to a Race Deferred” New York Times (Sept. 4, 2005)
The evacuation plan was based on people driving out of New Orleans. However, 35 percent of black households did not have access to a car, compared to 15 percent of whites.
There were stark contrasts between the nation’s reactions to the Hurricane Katrina disaster as opposed to the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on New York City.
The final Trade Center steel girder left standing was removed from Ground Zero in May 2002.
New Orleans Ninth Ward 5 years after Katrina.
Inequalities in the amount of life of various social groups
In Scotland, a boy from the country's wealthiest suburb has a life expectancy of 87.7 years, while a boy born in the poorest area of Glasgow can expect to die at 54. A child born in Calton, in the East End of Glasgow, is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's prosperous western suburbs. --Fraser Nelson. “A nation still divided by poverty and inequality.” The Scotsman (Jan. 4, 2006)
“Empire at the End of Decadence,” New York Times (Feb. 18, 2011)
Factor by which uninsured children in U.S. hospitals are more likely to die of their injuries than are insured children: 2. --Families USA/Harper’s Index (June 2007)
In October of 2007, John Tanner, chief of the Department of Justice’s voting rights division, caused a political firestorm. He was addressing the National Latino Congresso in Los Angeles, claiming how Photo ID restrictions at the polling do affect the elderly and how that that's a "shame." But, he added, minorities needn't worry because "minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first."
THE RICH LIVE LONGER
Analyzing births, deaths, income and wealth in England between 1250 and 1800, as evidenced primarily by wills, Clark found on average richer people were more likely to marry than poorer people, they married at earlier ages, they lived longer once they were married, bore more children per year of marriage, and their children were more likely to survive and to bear children.
Apple’s Steve Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009. The billionaire’s story became a parable of class privilege and the inequities of the nation's transplant system. Jobs relocated from his home in California to Tennessee, where there is much less competition for vital organs.
From the 1987 Whitehall study, a British survey of the mortality rates of civil servants aged 20-64, all of whom had access to medical care and none impoverished.
Difference in life expectancy between males and females, blacks and whites in U.S. 1975-2000 --Source: National Vital Statistics Reports 50(15) (Sept. 16, 2002)
More than 886,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites. The study estimates that technological improvements in medicine -- including better drugs, devices and procedures -- averted only 176,633 deaths during the same period. --Steven H. Woolf, Robert E. Johnson, George E. Fryer, Jr, George Rust, &David Satcher. “The Health Impact of Resolving Racial Disparities: An Analysis of US Mortality Data.” American Journal of Public Health 2004 94: 2078-2081.
The infant mortality rate in America’s capital is twice as high as in China’s capital…--the number of babies who died before their first birthdays amounted to 11.5 per 1,000 live births in 2002 in Washington, compared with 4.6 in Beijing. --Nicholas Kristof. “The Larger Shame.” New York Times (Sept. 6, 2005)
Why, even when controlling for socioeconomic differences, do whites outlive their black counterparts?
Is it the stress of living in a whitedominated society?
The shooting deaths in 2005 at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minnesota, revealed the plight of American Indians on reservations. Nationally, native American teens commit suicide at three times the national rate and die in alcoholrelated incidents at 17 times the national average. A state survey conducted in 2004 of 56 ninthgraders on the Red Lake Indian Reservation showed that 81% of the girls and 43% of the boys had considered suicide. --Deborah Hastings. “Midwest death spree magnifies bleakness.” AP (March 27, 2005)
CLASS-BASED IMPLICATIONS OF THE HIGH COSTS OF DYING
Samuel Marshall, Kathleen M. McGarry, Jonathan S. Skinner. 2010. “The Risk of Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenditure at End of Life.” The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health, Working Paper No. 16170.
Americans increasingly die when they no longer can afford to pay
Health care spending in the last year of life by the top 1 percent of Americans is nearly twice the annual income of the typical American household.
Across the country in 2009, coroners and medical examiners reported spikes in the number of unclaimed bodies and indigent burials, with states, counties and private funeral homes having to foot the bill when families cannot. A Kentucky funeral director wiping off a small marker after a recent burial.
INTERNATIONAL STRATIFICATION SYSTEMS
Captioned as “Just another day in 3rd world countries” at http://www.crappycorn.com/20051010 .html .
WORLD SYSTEMS MODEL Core-periphery dichotomy of world economy Periphery: low value-added raw materials production Semi-periphery: like E. Europe, where capitalism exists with other modes Core: high value-added production, dominant capitalism
At the dawn of the new millennium, according to the World Bank, of the planet’s 6 billion people about 1.2 billion people were living below the poverty line of less than one dollar per day, and almost 3.0 billion on less than two dollars per day.
According to a 2001 UN report (“Health and Sustainable Development”) , poverty is and will remain the number one killer worldwide. “Poverty is an important reason that babies are not vaccinated, clean water and sanitation are not provided, drugs and other treatments are unavailable, and mothers die in childbirth.”
Taken in Karamoja district, Uganda in April 1980, the contrasting hands of a starving boy and a missionary. The 1980 famine killed 21% of the population (and 60% of the infants) and was one of the worst in history.
Between 1940 and 2004, 335 emergent infectious diseases have arisen in human populations. They largely occur where population density is the greatest and over onehalf are caused by drug-resistant microbes.
Gini scores (0 = perfect equality, 1 = perfect inequality with all income going to one worker/family)
The larger the gap between rich and poor in a society, the higher its overall death rates from heart disease, cancer, and murder. --Barry Glassner, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
From International data sets, 2000-05
ECO-INEQUALITY A typical computer monitor with a cathode ray tube display contains 2-4 kilograms of lead, as well as phosphor, barium, and hexavalent chromium. Other toxic ingredients include cadmium in chip resistors and semiconductors, beryllium on motherboards and connectors, and brominated flame retardants in circuit boards and plastic casings. As much as 50-80 percent of U.S. electronic waste collected for recycling is sent to Asia (mainly China, India, and Pakistan) where workers are exposed to toxic fumes, lung and respiratory irritants, and other dangerous health threats. --Radhika Sarin, Earthworks, in WorldWatch Institute
INEQUALITIES OF AGE
New York Times, Jan. 1, 2005
As of Jan. 1, 2007, more than 3,000 U.S. personnel have lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Source, AP)
AP, Jan. 1, 2007
AP, Jan. 1, 2007