Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveal that poor people live shorter lives. It turns out that a higher income leads to longer life, with the richest one percent of men and women in the US living 14.6 years and 10.1 years longer, respectively, on the average than the poorest one percent of men and women.

The study published on April 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that life expectancy in the US increased by 2.34 and 2.91 years for men and women who are in the top five percent of highest earners. The bottom five percent earners only experienced a life expectancy increase by 0.32 and 0.04 years for men and women. These statistics stem from the country’s successful fight against cancer.

Based on income tax filings and mortality data from 2001 to 2014, the researchers also found that each region in the US has different lifespans, about 4.5-year differences. The poor people with the lowest life expectancies are from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas while the poor people with highest life expectancies are from New York City (81.8 years) and some cities in California.

poor people

According to Michael Stepner , as you go up in the income distribution, life expectancy continues to increase, at every point in the income distribution. Illustration by Christine Daniloff/MIT

“The Deep South is the lowest-income area in America, but when we’re looking at life expectancy conditional on having a low income, it’s not worse to be poor in the Deep South than it is in other areas of America,” explains Michael Stepner, a PhD candidate in MIT’s Department of Economics. “It’s just that there are far more poor people living in the South.”

The highest income earners with the highest life expectancy live in Salt Lake City, living up to 87.8 years on the average, followed by Portland, Maine and Spokane, Washington. Meanwhile, the highest earners with the lowest expectancy rates are in Las Vegas, living up to 84.1 years on the average, followed by  Gary Indiana and Honolulu and

However, the research team admits that more studies on this regional variation are needed. Nonetheless, they assert that their study has provided additional insights about how poor people live shorter lives.

“We don’t have all the answers,” concludes Sarah Abraham, also a Ph.D. candidate in MIT’s Department of Economics. “But it’s really important to make these statistics widely used so people have an idea of what the magnitude of these problems is, where they might focus their attention, and why this matters.”