Lawler: US Death Rate Up, Life Expectancy Down in 2017

CR Note: The summary paragraph is key. Demographics are worse than they appeared a few years ago.

From housing economist Tom Lawler: US Death Rate Up, Life Expectancy Down in 2017

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that there were 2,813,503 US deaths in 2017, 69,255 higher than in 2016. The “age-adjusted” death rate (per 100,000) increased to 731,9 in 2017 from 728.8 in 2016, while the estimated life expectancy at birth declined to 78.6 in 2017 from 78.7 in 2016.

Below is a table showing some historical death rates for selected age groups.

What is especially striking about this table is the sharp increase in death rates among 25-44 year old over the last five years.

US Death Rates (deaths per 100,000 population), Total and Selected Age Groups (NCHS)
Yr Total 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75-84 85+ Age Adj.
2000 854 80 101 199 426 992 2399 5667 15524 869
2005 828 81 107 195 432 899 2110 5252 14982 815
2010 800 68 103 171 407 852 1875 4790 13934 747
2011 807 68 105 172 410 849 1846 4753 13779 741
2012 810 66 105 171 405 854 1803 4675 13679 733
2013 822 65 106 172 406 860 1802 4648 13660 732
2013 824 66 108 175 405 870 1786 4564 13408 725
2015 824 66 108 175 405 870 1786 4564 13408 725
2016 844 75 129 192 406 884 1789 4475 13392 729
2017 864 74 133 195 402 886 1791 4473 13574 732


The NCHS also reported that there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017, up from 63,632 in 2016. Here is a table showing some historical drug overdose deaths for selected age groups.

Drug Overdose Deaths by Selected Age Groups
Year 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+ Total
2000 1,435 3,169 6,469 4,389 1,013 854 17,415
2005 2,918 5,340 8,506 8,968 2,761 1,203 29,813
2010 3,571 7,572 8,546 11,299 5,486 1,722 38,329
2011 3,762 8,445 9,130 11,933 6,060 1,892 41,340
2012 3,518 8,508 8,948 11,895 6,423 2,094 41,502
2013 3,664 8,947 9,320 12,045 7,551 2,344 43,982
2014 3,798 10,055 10,134 12,263 8,122 2,568 47,055
2015 4,235 11,880 11,505 12,974 8,901 2,760 52,404
2016 5,376 15,443 14,183 14,771 10,632 3,075 63,632
2017 5,455 17,400 15,949 15,996 11,747 3,529 70,237


The NCHS did note that provisional data for the first four months of 2018 suggest that drug overdose death rates declined very slightly from last year’s alarmingly high rates.

According to the NCHS, there were 47,143 suicides in the US last year, up from 44,965 in 2016.

US Suicide Deaths US Drug Overdose Deaths
Year Total Men Women Total Men Women
1999 29,199 23,458 5,741 16,849 11,258 5,591
2016 44,965 34,727 10,238 63,632 41,558 22,074
2017 47,173 36,782 10,391 70,237 46,552 23,685


The NCHS death data highlight some serious issues facing the US. They also highlight the serious issues associated with the latest medium- and long-term population projections from Census. Below is a table comparing the so-called “Census 2017” Population Projections for deaths compared to the NCHS data.

US Deaths: Census 2017 Projections Vs. Actuals
Census 2017 Projections NCHS Census Avg.
12 months ended: Calendar Year Vs.
6/30/2017 6/30/2018 Average 2017 NCHS
Total 2,688,802 2,717,297 2,703,050 2,813,503 -110,454
<1 39,741 39,250 39,496 22,335 17,161
1-14 13,787 13,688 13,738 9,580 4,158
15-24 23,543 22,804 23,174 32,025 -8,852
25-34 43,981 43,340 43,661 60,215 -16,555
35-44 62,599 61,705 62,152 79,796 -17,644
45-54 151,976 145,945 148,961 170,142 -21,182
55-64 330,420 327,584 329,002 372,006 -43,004
65-74 493,422 500,663 497,043 531,610 -34,568
75-84 619,610 638,667 629,139 657,759 -28,621
85+ 909,723 923,651 916,687 878,035 38,652


First, there is obvious “mistake” in the Census 2017 projections for “infant” deaths. Second, the Census 2017 death projections for 15-84 year olds for calendar year 2017 (approximated in the above table) were a whopping 170,424 below actual deaths for this broad age group. The Census 2017 death projections for subsequent years have the same “issues,” overstating infant, child, and 85+ deaths and significantly understating likely deaths for all other age groups. These “issues” make the Census 2017 population projections of little use for those who use population projections to forecast key economic variables such as labor force growth, household growth, etc.

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