In the past 20 years, the life expectancy of New Yorkers has risen so much the Times calls it “stunning,” on par with increases “that followed major public health improvements like the advent of sewage systems at the end of the 19th century.” As of 2010, the average New York woman lived to 83; men, 78. In 1990, the life expectancy of a New York woman was younger than 77, while men didn’t even make it to 68. Ten years later, New Yorkers were living just as long as other Americans, and 10 years after that, they were living almost two years longer than their fellow countrymen and -women.
Most of the change can be attributed to health and safety gains: a third of the increase is because of the drop in homicides and AIDS deaths; 15 percent is thanks to a drop in drug- and alcohol-related deaths; and 5 percent is thanks to a decline in smoking deaths.
But part of it is also because of ringers: 10 percent of the gain can be attributed to the growing immigrant population. As of 2010, 38 percent of city residents were born in another country; 20 years ago, it was 29 percent. It’s this jump that gives New York the edge over the rest of the country. “Immigrants live significantly longer than native-born Americans, a pattern that demographers have puzzled over for decades,” the Times reports. “Researchers as early as the 1970s were aware of the pattern, although immigrants tended to have less education and lower income, factors often associated with poor health. The phenomenon, known as the ‘immigrant advantage,’ wears off over generations.”
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart