Canadian Life Expectancy
August 03, 2009, 06:39 PM
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Megan McArdle writes, under the heading Department of Awful Statistics
News flash:  Bill O'Reilly is not very bright.
Last night on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill turned to the audience letters. From Peter in Canada: "Has anyone noted that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?" Bill wasn't phased, but he did use some creative math to answer. "Well Peter, that's to be expected," he said, "we have ten times as many people as you do!"
There is actually an interesting point here:  up to a certain point, population density decreases your life expectancy quite dramatically.  But I'm pretty sure that Bill O'Reilly was not making that interesting point. I'm pretty sure he was saying something incredibly innumerate.
Probably true, but the reason for Canada's relatively higher life expectancy is not socialized medicine either—as Kathy Shaidle pointed out recently, waiting in line for medical care doesn't make your life longer, it just makes it seem longer.

No, the reason is that Canada is a much whiter country than the United States. Ms. McArdle also links, as a mental health break, to a student doctor's forum in which residents are sharing stories of front line emergency room medicine.Their stories sound like this:

  • "Noone in North Philly is actually dating or married to their children's other parent. This particular story was a rare case, and does not accurately represent the population seen at Temple. However, even though this woman was still sleeping with her 'baby's father', she did not refer to him as her boyfriend/husband.
  • "So true. When I was at Temple I don't think I ever actually saw a mother. All children were "cared for" by grandmother or some other maternal relative.
  • "Just so ya know, the Gulf Coast is just as similar, except its usually the grandmother bringining in all the grandkids.
  • "During my years in Philly I never once saw a mother, always, always the grandmother or even elder maternal relative. I did meet a 50 year old great grandmother once.
This kind of thing does not lend itself to increased life expectancy in America's minority population, and there's less of it in Canada.