Academic research rarely goes viral, but this past year, the work of Princeton professors Anne Case and Nobel laureate Angus Deaton became the center of a national fascination over the woes of white America. It’s also landed the two in the crossfire of a debate about race and the lack of attention given to problems faced by African Americans.
Angus Deaton In 2015, Case and Deaton pointed out that mortality rates among middle-aged white Americans have been rising, while mortality rates for other Americans and citizens of Western Europe have continued to plummet. Two weeks ago, the researchers released a deeper report probing the underlying reasons. Opioid abuse and alcoholism and a spike in suicides have been the most visible causes, but Case and Deaton say these “deaths of despair” are symptoms of a much larger problem — one that’s rooted in the economy, and how forces like technological change have battered less-educated whites in recent decades.