Betsy McKay raises a central puzzle for America in a Wall Street Journal article about death rates among white adults:
The increase in mortality rate for working-class whites can’t be explained by declining income prospects alone. Blacks and Hispanics face many of the same income struggles but have experienced declines in mortality over the same period, the two economists argued, though their findings reveal more recent troubles for blacks, with gains stagnating the past couple of years amid an increase in drug overdoses and stalling progress against heart disease.
“This doesn’t seem to be about current income,” Ms. Case said in a call with reporters. “It seems to be about accumulating despair.”
It’s about demoralization. This trend results from the combination of economic hardship, the elites’ undermining of traditional family structures, and, as a final assault, the handling in the popular culture of white men as always the ultimate source of evil. Dysfunctional families are easier to survive when there’s money in the equation, and cultural opprobrium is easier to laugh off when you’re advantaged.
To some extent, the problem is the inertia of cultural clichés. It takes a while for the message that circumstances have changed to filter throughout those who make decisions throughout our institutions, arts, and media (often requiring the change of entire generations at the helm). And the Left pushed this particular cliché unreasonably hard, because they liked the pose and the political upside.
In the meantime, our society will continue to fail in its role of uplifting its disadvantaged members.