A group of middle-aged whites in the U.S. is dying at a startling rate

A large segment of white middle-aged Americans has suffered a startling rise in its death rate since 1999, according to a review of statistics published Monday that shows a sharp reversal in decades of progress toward longer lives.

An increase in the mortality rate for any large demographic group in an advanced nation has been virtually unheard of in recent decades, with the exception of Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Read more here.

New diversity research scares its author

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer.[…]

Putnam writes: “Across local areas in the United States, Australia, Sweden Canada and Britain, greater ethnic diversity is associated with lower social trust and, at least in some cases, lower investment in public goods.” […]

From City Journal. Previous post here, other references and discussion on Stumbling and Mumbling.

Better lives

In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby writes about Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World,

Take food. Since 1950, the world’s population has soared by more than 150 percent. Yet food has become so abundant that global food prices (in real terms) have plunged 75 percent. Over the past generation, chronic undernourishment in poor countries has been slashed from 37 percent to 17 percent, while in the United States, staples such as potatoes and flour have dropped in price (relative to income) by more than 80 percent.

Or take infant mortality. Before industrialization, children died before reaching their first birthday at a rate exceeding 200 per 1,000 live births, or more than one in five. “In the United States as late as 1900,” Goklany writes, “infant mortality was about 160; but by 2004 it had declined to 6.6.” In developing countries, the fall in mortality rates began later, but is occurring more quickly. In China, infant mortality has plunged from 195 to below 30 in the past 50 years.

Life expectancy? From 31 years in 1900, it was up to 66.8 worldwide in 2003.

Health? We are more likely to be disease-free today than our forebears were a century ago. And the onset of chronic illness has been significantly delayed — by nearly eight years for cancer, nine years for heart diseases, and 11 years for respiratory diseases.

Education, child labor, clean air, freedom, famine, leisure time, global poverty — Goklany shows that by almost any yardstick you choose, humanity thrives as never before. Living standards do not fall as population rises. On the contrary: Where there are free markets and free minds — economic growth and technology — human progress and hope are all but guaranteed.

“Humanity, though more populous and still imperfect, has never been in better condition,” he writes.

Gardening is good for you

Gardening is good for you; you are physically active without doing strenuous labor, you are outdoors, you work with beautiful plants, and you can clearly see the results of your work.

Here is an additional reason why gardening might be good for you: A bacterium that lives naturally in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, might alleviate clinical depression.

Read here.