Life expectancy has increased rapidly in modern times and, as health care and technology continue to evolve, lives could get longer still. Babies born in the United States today are expected to live about a quarter of a century longer than babies born a century ago. However, there are large variances within the United States and life expectancy depends largely on where children are born and live. The differences are not only between states, but also between cities within each state.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the city in each state that has the longest and shortest life expectancies at birth. A child born in the San Jose, California metro area is expected to live 83 years, the longest life expectancy of any U.S. area.
Social and economic factors are the primary drivers of longevity. Because poverty tends to contribute to premature death, the longest-living city residents in a given state tend to report lower poverty rates and higher incomes than residents of other metro areas in that state. In two- thirds of states, the metro area with the highest life expectancy also reported a higher median household income, and a lower poverty rate than the respective state figures.
The cities with the longest life expectancy in a given state do not necessarily report strong economic and social factors compared to the nation as a whole. In Jackson, the life expectancy at birth of 75.6, while the highest in Mississippi, is still not higher than the national figure. In the longest-living metro area, the typical household earned more than the median American household income in only about half of states.
Behavior is also a major factor. Unhealthy eating habits and irregular exercise can contribute to a high obesity rate, for example, which increases the risk of contracting disease, which in turn can contribute to shorter lives. The obesity rates in a majority of each state’s longest-living metro area did not exceed the national obesity rate of 27.0%.
To determine the metropolitan areas with the longest — and shortest — life expectancy in each state, 24/7 Wall St. used county-level life expectancy data for 2010 from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center affiliated with University of Washington. To obtain metro area life expectancy estimates, we mapped the counties to their corresponding metro areas and calculated the average life expectancy by sex across all counties in a given metro area, weighting it by 2010 decennial census population figures. Next, we calculated the weighted average of life expectancies by sex to arrive at an estimate of longevity. Twenty-nine metro areas did not match census records in 2010. In these cases, we added the 2010 county populations that currently make up the metropolitan area. Additionally, we used the percentage of residents who are physically inactive and obese, as well as the percentage of adults who smoke from County Health Rankings. To calculate metro area estimates for these measures, we used survey sample sizes and 2014 metro and county five-year population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Data on median household income, poverty, educational attainment, and the uninsured rate also come from the ACS.
These are the cities with the longest life expectancy in every state.