Story at a glance

  • A new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that life expectancy at birth for the total United States population is 77.8 years.
  • Life expectancy has dropped by one year since 2019 and even more for nonwhite Americans.
  • The numbers are not complete and likely to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Babies born in the first half of 2020 are expected to die at around the same time as those born a year ahead of them, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that the life expectancy at birth has dropped by one year at least. 

“This is a huge decline,”  Robert Anderson from the CDC, told The Associated Press (AP). “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”


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The life expectancy at birth in the first half of 2020 was 77.8 years, down by one year from 78.8 in 2019, according to the report. For men, whose life expectancy was 75.1 years, that number is closer to 1.2 years less on Earth, while for women, who are expected to live until 80.5 years, it is 0.9 years less.

This is the first time the CDC has reported on life expectancy from early, partial records, reported AP, which means that the calculations could change as more death certificates are counted — millions of which are due to the coronavirus pandemic. Data on COVID-19 deaths have been fragmented by states, many of which are still not reporting racial data. 


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Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, told AP the numbers are likely to get worse, especially for nonwhite communities. While the gap in life expectancy between Black and white Americans had been decreasing since 1993, there was a six-year difference in the first half of 2020 — the largest since 1998.

“Black and Hispanic communities throughout the United States have borne the brunt of this pandemic,” Bibbins-Domingo told AP.

Life expectancy decreased by 2.7 years for Black Americans, according to the report — the lowest since 2001. Meanwhile, life expectancy for Hispanic Americans, which was previously higher than white Americans, dropped by 1.9 years, compared to 0.8 years for white Americans.


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Published on Feb 18, 2021