It is not surprising that wealthier people live longer than poor people, but the degree of the difference is incredible. People in the 1% of households with the highest incomes in the United States have male and female life expectancy that is 15 years and 10 years (respectively) greater than for the 1% of households with the lowest incomes.
There are still significant differences between households at the 40th percentile of income and those at the 90th. Men in households at the 40th percentile of income live an average of 5 fewer years than those at the 90th percentile, for example.
While the most obvious explanation for the differences in longevity with wealth is access to healthcare, there are reasons to believe that this is far from the whole story. There are substantial differences in life expectancy between wealthy and poor in France (11 years) and the UK (9 years), despite their having universally-available health care. Even in the U.S., researchers have concluded that “differences in life expectancy among the poor are not strongly associated with differences in access to health care.”
The economic implications of the wealth gap in life expectancy are far-reaching. Wealthier people can expect more years of drawing income from Social Security. Wealthier people also need to save more of their labor income to support longer retirements.