Economic Costs of Disparities in Life Expectancy Highlighted in AARP Report “Our Collective Future: The Economic Impact of Unequal Life Expectancy”

A new report from AARP found that the annual economic cost to the U.S. GDP caused by disparities in life expectancy is expected to reach $1.6 trillion in 2030. That totals 5.1% of the projected GDP, which would be equivalent to the combined size of Massachusetts’ and Virginia’s economies in 2030.

Our Collective Future: The Economic Impact of Unequal Life Expectancy concluded that the cost of disparities in life expectancy affects everyone. However, regions and sectors with high concentrations of older people, poor and rural areas and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. COVID-19 has only deepened longstanding structural inequities. From 2019 to 2020, overall life expectancy fell by 1.5 years – to 77.3 years, according to the CDC, with disproportionate drops among Blacks (2.9 years – to 71.8 years) and Hispanics (3 years – to 78.8 years). Disparities stifle economic growth, with disparities in life expectancy estimated to reduce consumer spending by $1.1 trillion in 2030 alone.

Key findings in the report include:

  • The U.S. could have 5.9 million more people in 2030, with 92% of these among the 50-plus cohort, if everyone had the same opportunities to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
  • Inequities in life expectancy could cost the U.S. around 10.1 million jobs and $934 billion in wages and salaries in 2030.
    • The job and wage losses are expected to be disproportionate in the construction, services (education, health, finance, etc.) and health sectors. The construction industry could face cost increases of 12% by 2030. These losses also disproportionately impact 50-plus workers, who account for 77% of labor force participants that would be able to remain active in the workforce longer.
  • The costs of disparities in life expectancy translate to an average drop in life expectancy at age 50 of 3 years for men and 3.2 years for women, with Black men and Black women falling behind by 4.6 and 3.9 years, respectively.

For more information, see the full AARP Research report here.