See How Where You Live Affects How Long and How Well You Live

In general, people believe that their own actions are more important than the environments in which they live. It’s a belief that’s so powerful its name is Fundamental Attribution Bias.

At the same time, the decision of where to live, work, go to school or raise our kids is among the most important and serious ones we will make in our lives.  

If you’re curious to know how much where you live may impact your life, check out these two tools:

The first from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation uses CDC data to estimate life expectancy down to the census track level.

The second from the Pew Research Center allows you to see how where you live impacts how far your money goes – in other words how does it impact your social class.

Both will show you how your results compare to the rest of the country.

In my own situation, the good news is that people who live in my town live two years longer than the national average. The bad news is that our money doesn’t go nearly as far as it would in other parts of the country – especially with a household of five.

On the surface, this makes sense. Places that have a higher tax base from higher incomes can invest more in schools, hospitals and other types of social infrastructure. Research shows this can contribute to both quality and length of life.

Digging deeper the results begin to look more troubling. By the nature of where I have been able to choose to live, I am now expected to live 4.5 years longer than my brother and sister who live in a different part of the country.

Two years longer than the national average or 4.5 years longer than your siblings may not sound like a lot?

Try measuring that time not in years but in missed hugs from your children or lost opportunities to see your grandchildren grow from grade schoolers to high schoolers.

There is no doubt that our individual choices matter but the reality is not everyone can choose to live anywhere they want. 

In a capitalist society, we readily accept the fact that some people will drive used Toyota’s while others cruise around in new Porsches. That some will vacation at their local beach while others will whisk away to Bora Bora. We don’t begrudge the success of others we admire and aspire to it.

But how much difference are we willing to accept when it comes to living longer? 

Thank you for taking the time to read the latest from Moving Up.

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