The Economic Geography of Premature Mortality in the United States: Discussion

Shom Mazumder (Government)


  • Overarching Question: Geographic variation in mortality? By race and age?
  • Striking patterns emerge:
    • Middle aged, white women are dying at much higher rates
    • Whites in general are stagnating in mortality
    • Blacks are doing much better (could probably be emphasized more?)
  • Evaluate some initial (economic!) explanations
    • Income growth (nada)
    • Manufacturing (maybe?)

Why This Paper is a BFD

  • Uses population data from CDC to evaluate mortality rates
  • Shows strong gender-race-regional differences in mortality rates
  • Tons of puzzles come out of this that are (literally) a matter of life and death

My Overarching Questions

  • Theory
    • No overarching conceptual framework
    • Are there microfoundations that can jointly incorporate age, race, and sex?
    • Where's the state? Politics?
  • Empirics
    • Where's the geography?
    • Not sure if you've really set up fair tests of existing explanations
    • Cause specific mortality trends?

Suggestions for Theory

  • Paper currently reads as overview of existing explanations
    • I want to know how you are thinking about this theoretically
  • Microfound this with some a lifecycle theory of household bargaining?
  • Politics and the state (Bleakly 2007, Velasco 2017)

The Erosion of the Welfare State?