Why ‘Deaths of Despair’ May Be a Warning Sign for America | Moving Upstream

Why ‘Deaths of Despair’ May Be a Warning Sign for America | Moving Upstream


(ragtime music) – [Host] America has always prided itself on being the land of opportunity. That image, for many people, is fading. Nobel-prize-winning economist Angus Deaton and his wife, fellow
Princeton professor Anne Case, say that, for the majority, the reality of the American dream is disappearing. – I do worry about a
world in which the rich get to write the rules,
which the rest of us then have to obey. – [Host Voiceover] In this
episode of Moving Upstream, I head to Princeton to find out what’s led these provocative thinkers
to ring the alarm bells. – This 250-year experiment
we’ve had with democracy could be coming to an end. – Might be on the edge of a precipice. (string music) – [Host] Professors Deaton and Case are on a mission to solve a mystery: what’s behind the decades-long rise in suicide rates in America, and what does it say about our country? – In every state, in prime-age whites, deaths from suicide went
up between 1999 and 2016. Well we think it’s a real sign that something is not right. – [Host] The professors
note that the suicide rate among middle-aged African Americans isn’t on the rise, and it’s
far lower than that of whites. – Even though whites are wealthier, within an African-American community, you feel you are part of the community. – [Host] Suicides are
striking especially hard in a most unlikely area, one where the myth of America was made. – [Deaton] There’s a
suicide belt in America right up the Rocky Mountains. – [Case] Arizona, New Mexico,
all the way up through– – [Deaton] To Alaska. – [Case] Montana, and then then a few extra miles further, into Alaska. – Is that really a thing, a suicide belt? – That’s what they call it.
– Yes. – Do a colored map of the U.S., showing where the suicide rate is higher. Looks like the Rocky Mountains. – Are we talking about a despair caused by economic hardship? Or is it something in
the spirit of America? – I think economics may
trigger some of these things, but in the end it’s a failure of spiritual and social life
that drives people to suicide. – Is it reasonable to think that if some of these people had more money, that they wouldn’t fall
into the pits of despair? – I don’t think that anyone doubts that if they had more money
they’d be better off, right? I mean, we’re economists after all. But you can’t link these deaths to having more money or less money, it just doesn’t work. – [Host voiceover] If you
take a look at the data from the great recession,
you see what they mean. Even though the economy tanked, and many Americans lost their savings, it didn’t significantly
move the suicide trend line. – You used the term “deaths of despair.” Did you guys coin that? – Yeah, yeah. – [Deaton] The addiction
thing is so close to suicide. Some of the opioid doctors
talk about a lost generation. – [Host Voiceover] One of
the things that intrigues the researchers is that it seems to be a North American phenomenon. – [Deaton] This is where the comparison with Europe is very important, ’cause you don’t really
see deaths of despair. – Though in southern Europe you do see really high unemployment, particularly for young people. – We’re not talking
about unemployment here. It’s much more to do with the, you know, things that you would correlate with a spiritual crisis. – The Europeans are not killing themselves the way that the Americans are. They’ve lost jobs, technological change has come to Europe, so one of the places our research will go next is: what are the big differences between the Europeans and the Americans that is helping the Europeans
keep body and soul together? – [Host Voiceover] Deaton and Case offer some theories: one, the
breakdown of families. – [Deaton] The things that make people want to kill themselves or
lose the meaning of life are to do with things like your marriage has never worked out, you know, you don’t know your kids anymore. – Social bonds deteriorating, is that what we’re talking about? – Yeah. – [Host Voicevoer]
Another theory: Americans making a religious
migration to churches that, Case thinks, are changing the way faith connects in the community. – You’ve said something
really provocative on this. You’ve singled out the Evangelical church. – That is a church that more people are identifying with, and it’s a church which encourages my personal relationship with my savior, but it’s a
very individual experience, whereas the mainline Protestant churches, or the Catholic church would be, you’re part of a community. – We’ve nothing against
the Evangelical churches, and we’re certainly not
correlating Evangelicals with the deaths, we don’t
have the data for that. But one of the things you might think, if a community is coming apart, is you see less religious observance, and you do not. – [Host Voiceover] But
there is one correaltion they find in the numbers. – All this bad stuff, by and large, is happening to people
who do not have a BA, and people who do have a BA
are largely exempt from this. The economy is no longer offering a good life to people
without a university degree. – [Host Voiceover] People in the U.S. that only have a high-school
diploma are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as those who hold a college degree. Today, fewer than a third of Americans ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree before reaching the age of 29. – If we can only generate good lives for an elite that’s about
a third of the population, then we have a real problem. – [Host Voicevoer] The real problem, as Deaton and Case see it, is that deaths of
despair are an indicator. – So, I mean, I would go as far as to say if we can’t fix this, it really
is a crisis of capitalism. You know, it doesn’t seem to be working for the people who are
not very well educated. Up until the Second World War, the dominant intellectual views then was that capitalism was sort of broken. – [Footage Narrator] Little man, what now? – [Deaton] There were a lot of people who were flirting with Communism or Socialism in one form or another. And what seemed to happen after the Second World War is that it started delivering for more or less everybody. And so you get this long period, from 1945 through to the early seventies, when all boats rose together. Working-class people, people
without a college degree, who entered the labor
market right in 1970, had a great world, and
that was a world in which you could belong to a
union, there was a fabric of working-class life which looked like it was going to go on forever. And that world has been sort
of coming apart since 1970. You know, median wages, in real terms, have been pretty stagnant for 50 years. – [Host Voiceover] The
professors think conditions are ripe in America for one
of two things to happen: one, a resurgent left declaring war on laissez-faire economics. – Capitalism in America is much more anti-worker than it is in Europe. I mean, the income tax
rates are not very different from what they are here, but in Europe there’s a value-added tax that generates a huge amount of revenue which is used to maintain an elaborate
social safety net. We don’t have that here. – We’ve produced the Bill Gateses, the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Steve Jobses. They’ve come from
America, not from Europe. Some of the greatest minds on this planet have emerged from this society. – Well a lot of them are immigrants. So, something like half of
the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants. The year I got the Nobel Prize,
there were four Americans. Three of us were immigrants. Do we have a free society? We don’t look after each
other, and in the end it’s rough and tumble, a lot of people fall right through the cracks. But, on average, we do well. Right? But the question is, is
“on average we do well” okay if it’s only the top third? If it’s only the people with BAs? You know, in the end, you’d want a world where people don’t have
to go to college, right? – [Host Voiceover] The other possibility, with inequality reaching
such a high level, they say it may be the
fabric of our society that could be the next casualty. – You know when you see a
society’s life expectancy beginning to tip over for
like three years in a row, which it has been for
whites, and two years for the whole population, the only time that’s happened before was,
you know, because of smoking. So this is, you know, that does suggest that something really bad is going on under the surface. – Canary in a coal mine kind of situation? – Yes, exactly. And that’s very worrying. And you know the world
is a much better place, but it’s a very fragile place. What happens if, say, the
stock market fell by 50% again? You could have some constitutional crisis. You could have a lot of things
like that that go together. North Korea is the most obvious thing. Put a couple of those things together and the world would not look
quite such a happy place. – These acclaimed Princeton professors think the American ideal
of self-reliance is, due to changes in the
economy, becoming outdated. Is the isolation and
despair being experienced by so many people in this country, less-educated whites in particular, pushing us towards some sort of crisis? What do you think? We look forward to reading your comments.

43 comments

  1. Right wing all for the rich economics has decimated the middle class, and spread poverty across America.

  2. I agree some of this…
    You are responsible for your actions. You must think for yourself. Work hard think hard how to improve your lot. Stay far away from Bad company. Don't have kids ever abortion is evil so abstain. Save money don't buy stuff. Go to school nights. Read business books. Bible very insightful in human psychology.
    Make good friend probably 1 old wise person. Finally keep positive. Keep knocking doors…
    Talk to any one who knows what ever. But avoid self pity and whisky. Sooner or later your ship will sail by you… Jump on it. Keep yours eyes peeled. Life goes on.

  3. I can't think of one person on my Mother's (RIP) side who was not Union. I was a Journeyman Carpenter, both of my kids were/are Union.
    I took university classes during summertime, when my kids were staying with their dad. I was young and my body, mind and motivation were great then. Taking University classes and working full time wasn't a huge difficulty.
    I feel being in a Union is akin to soldiers in an outfit. (a unit) Comradery, having each other's back between workers for a long time… picnics together, etc..
    Speaking their own lingo, usually working closely. You get to know other's kids, the cars they drove, about the wife, or parents of your fellow workers.

    Republicans are lazze faire; they put on a good front… going to church, saying hello but not good enough for them, never liking the idea of giving (their) money to anyone, even though it is scripture. They cling to capitalism, consumerism, they tend to be very self-absorbed. The very idea of some sort of socialism is anathema to them.

    sigh

  4. Certain people in this country was told they were better because of skin color THEY believed it THEY fell for the deception. You made yourself into a god now the REAL GOD has to put the deception back in the box…..Good bye when you get to a certain low number hopefully we will have some zoos set up for you to list you as an endangered species dont stand to close to the glass please

  5. We need a new American Myth. The debunked “We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident, That All Men Are Created Equal” is no longer valid…if it ever was.

    It’s not that people are feeling left out, they are left out.

  6. The elites are pushing America into a crisis so they can state super rich. People don't matter dollars are the culprit here. Money, power, dicktatorship.

  7. The middle class is shrinking more and more, people have to be away from their families longer, working more just to survive, and tons of our veterans comeback from war to families that barely. Recognize t them along with ptsd, eventually ending in divorce and taking into even worse depression. Then there's unemployment, especially if you have even the smallest record because your competing with those who dont, nowadays boredom for kids ultimately equals drugs which leads to harder drugs cartels are pushing which leads to heroin/fentanyl, also mentally unwell and up self medicated and isolated from families with hospitals that used to be there to help, gone, for some budget reason or another.

  8. The Republicans have done something that in theory seems impossible. Their Constituency is the Corporations and the super wealthy, and nobody else. That is the only people they do anything for. Of course, they placate the religious nuts. But don't really do anything for them/

    Yet they have convinced the ones that are suffering the most from there policies, (white people without a college degree) that they are their advocates. They are so delusional that the life expectancy of white men without a Bachelors degree is declining.

    They are dying from what is called deaths of despair. Drug addiction is rampant in rural areas. And suicide is almost an epidemic in some areas yet they choose the ones causing the horror to be their leaders.

  9. Oh please. People who don't believe in God are not killing themselves more. How about we cut funding to mental health some more? Maybe that would help…

  10. Meanwhile the Govt's R SPENDING Your tax💲 BILLIONS ON there Fantasy war's and fake Terrorist PLOTS
    to keep the big c/o's in $WAR production who sponsor the people in govt
    Meanwhile ! whats happening 2019 ? kim & trump met again & people r not watching TV like the old days 😲Youtube & movies r winning
    WHY Watch FAKE NEWS ? tv

  11. Don’t you people get it. Europe is smarter. They have social safety nets. You dumb white people keep voting against your economic self interest by voting for old racist, rich white guys who only look after the 1%.

  12. Selfishness is one reason also
    Older women wanting their independence after years of marriage are sending older white men into loneliness
    My ex after years together wanted a divorce because in her words I had taken away her independence when in reality she had never wanted to learn anything and let me handle the house finances and everything else
    I went into a tailspin after my wife home everything was gone after years of working
    I thought I was going to commit suicide but I kept my head together
    So divorce may be another aspect of why this is happening

  13. either way blacks will be just fine since we were here b4 whites and had to teach them how survive here in the americas. God don't like ugly

  14. I love that todays poor people don't desire communism like the poor did in the past. I bet most poor Americans don't even know what communism is^^

  15. Is that why many whites are "accidently" all a sudden falling off the country's national parks beautiful overhead sites, like at the Grand Canyon and other high mountain ridges across amurica?
    Lost & Despaired, everywhere?

  16. U’ll find many middle class Eusa living in the street country wide. The Most High is tearing Eusa a new one and the only way it can b described.

  17. it's a dream because you'd have to be asleep to believe it. But the rich eventually die too, and so will their offspring. Life is a scam and a cheat.

  18. When I see people doing things that are grandparents and great-grandparents did back in the 1920s and 1930s I know it's heading for a disaster. When I see people glorifying working and owning a food truck or dog walking or delivering sandwiches I know that time is coming to a close. Show called the gig economy and it is the gig economy is a sign that things are not good. If you have to play taxi driver or deliver sandwiches to people and you already have a good job or maybe not that good of a job and have to work three jobs things are not good. And I don't care if it's right-wing or left-wing, the oligarchs just play to our emotions and I don't think they really care one way or another.

  19. Could mean your reign on power is fading white society is trying to find a way to keep it going. Your time is up. Make justice be swift. It's funny how evil is soft spoken and kind

  20. So they said very clearly that it's not possible to tie suicide rate to lack of money and then spent the rest of the video trying to do exactly that. In the end I think what was abundantly clear is they have no clue what's causing the suicide rate to increase but they obviously dislike American Capitalism.

  21. Well I guess it's one thing to do it for black people is that white people have always had their foot on black people's neck hard times Hard Times so now it doesn't really make a difference because it's been hard on blacks all the time I guess that's why I'm doing pretty good never graduated from high school I work that money put up have some toys I will have seven children grown and three little children what do I just great and I look around me and the black people that I see are doing great also not rich but happy it's a difference in our cultures so I guess out of something bad happening being under the foot of white people something good comes out of strength

  22. Vince Fosters everywhere the Clinton's go, Ron Brown, Sec Of Agriculture committing suicide after saying when he came home from his last trip he said" I'm going to blow the whistle on the Clintons"…..he never said anything about suicide. FUNNY……and someone moved the warning beacon 1000 ft lower on the hill near the airport causing the plane to crash. Two boys securely tied themselves down to railroad tracks minutes before the train partitioned them in Mena AK after seeing something going on at the airport where the Clinton's were. Do not investigate the democratic clinton machine or you can die as the clinton aide that was shot execution style at a coffee house she was working at. Prior to giving testimony against ….guess who?

  23. Great article. We all must learn to work together and not be so greedy! Our social fabric in America has never given a fair shake to the "American Descendants of Slavery". Until this is done we as a nation will continue to sink from greed and spiritual isolation.

  24. U need a better explanation for so many Eusa committing suicide since Eusa millionaires r also committing suicide. Let my ppl go or u gon have “ Him “ to deal with. I like it.

  25. The system is working perfectly. If your white and poor, you are just collateral damage. U lose some you win some.

  26. 8:03 immigrants who took opportunity in the UNITED STATES. These are typical academics using suicide data to push the typical socialist agenda.

  27. In my six feet of space, which embodies the world I create, suicide, self pit y, nor negative self talk exist! That is a State of Mind I chose and it works,and I am white! So what is the excuse!? Live and be brave! Like the King Snake of Florida! Strong, assertive! Aggressive, and a nonsinful pride and ambition! To live,like I do!

  28. It's just Karma. Black people have been in this cycle for 400 years. This September makes the 400th year. It's all flipping now. It's cosmic and universal law.

  29. More propaganda to brow beat whites and embolden all the white haters out there ,after all we whites are free thinkers , unlike POC who are easily manipulated and brainwashed.

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