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Report: Mississippi, Other States with High Poverty Rates Also Have Lower Life Expectancies

A recent report shows that Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy in the country, foregrounding the effects of poverty on the state.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics report released on Feb. 10, the average Mississippian is expected to live 74.4 years. Mississippi ranks last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the life expectancy report. The national average is 78.8 years.

Men relax on the sidewalk this rural Delta community on April 27, 2021 in Greenville, Mississippi. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed mortality statistics, population data and Medicare data from 2019. The report also shows a correlation between poverty and life expectancy.

Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 19.6 percent of Mississippians live below the poverty line. U.S. Census data shows the state’s 2.9 billion residents have a median household income of $45,081, or $24,362 per person. 

More than half of the population in Mississippi is white (59.1 percent), 37 percent is Black, 3.4 percent is Hispanic or Latino, 1.3 percent identify as two or more races, 1.1 percent is Asian and less than 1 percent is American Indian or Native Hawaiian.

Most of the other states at the bottom of the life expectancy report also led the country in poverty rates. West Virginians have a life expectancy of 74.5 years, the second-lowest in the country. The state also has the fourth-highest poverty rate, with 16.2 percent of West Virginians living below the poverty line. 

Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee are right above West Virginia in life expectancy. All three states have a life expectancy of around 75 years old. However, Kentucky has the fifth-highest poverty rate in the country, Alabama has the seventh-highest and Tennessee has the 11th-highest poverty rate.

On the flip side, Hawaii and California top the life expectancy list in the first and second spots, respectively. Residents in both states are expected, on average, to live for 80.9 years. Hawaii has the fourth-lowest poverty rate in the country. 

California’s poverty rate, however, ranks in the middle among other states and the District of Columbia. New York is also an outlier. New York ranks third in life expectancy (80.7 years) and has the 13th-highest poverty rate in the country (13.1 percent).  

Minnesota ranks fourth in life expectancy, and Massachusetts ranks fifth. Residents in both states are expected to live up to an average of 80.4 years. Minnesota has the third-lowest poverty rate in the U.S. and Massachusetts has the eighth-lowest.

Also accounting for its life expectancy, Mississippi has the highest homicide rate in the country, according to the CDC. There are 15.4 homicide deaths per 100,000 people in Mississippi. 

Heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory are the leading causes of death in Mississippi. It is also the most physically inactive state in the country.

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