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Clueless Journalists Report that the US Life Expectancy Is at Lowest Level “Since World War II” – Ryan McMaken

People who know anything at all about the demographic history of the US know that the life expectancy at birth in the United States was significantly lower in the 1940s than it is today.  In fact, this is somewhat common knowledge because most people know—or at least suspect—that if you got cancer or had a heart attack or stroke in the 1940s, you would probably die a short time later. Many also know that child mortality was also higher in the mid-twentieth century.

In fact, the life expectancy, according to the CDC, was 65.9 years in 1945, the year World War II ended. In 2020, life expectancy was 77 years. 

But you don’t exactly have to read textbooks on this sort of thing to have a sense of it. Just talk to your grannie or abuelita who might mention her siblings who died as young children.  Yet this sort of common sense is apparently beyond the abilities or skill set of the journalists at The Daily Caller who recently ran a headline stating: “US Life Expectancy Drops To Lowest Level Since Second World War.” And lest we think it was just the editor who hurriedly wrote a bad headline, the same mistake is repeated in the first paragraph which reads: 

The U.S. life expectancy dropped to its lowest level since World War II in 2020, multiple sources reported.

This “fact” is so obviously wrong it’s a wonder that an editor let it go out the door. With a life expectancy of 77 years in 2020, that means US life expectancy did not come within even ten years of modern life expectancy until 1948. In 1948, the life expectancy at birth was 67.2 years. Moreover, this metric didn’t crack 70 years until 1961. 

Here’s what the actual life expectancy at birth has been historically in the United States: 


And here’s how much life expectancy at birth has changed over the last 20 years. It’s not much at all thanks to continued thanks continued issues of obesity, drug addiction, diabetes, and suicide:


But perhaps in the age of covid, reporters are willing to believe pretty much anything so long as it makes covid look like the bubonic plague of the 1340s. Indeed, had life expectancy actually fallen to WWII levels in 2020, that would have meant a decline of nearly ten years which would have been the worst since the flu of 1918, when life expectancy fell by 11 years. From 2019 to 2020, the decline was 1.8 years.