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Education And Debate

Life expectancy, economic inequality, homicide, and reproductive timing in Chicago neighbourhoods

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 26 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1271
  1. Margo Wilson, professora,
  2. Martin Daly, professora
  1. a Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Wilson


    In comparisons among Chicago neighbourhoods, homicide rates in 1988-93 varied more than 100-fold, while male life expectancy at birth ranged from 54 to 77 years, even with effects of homicide mortality removed. This “cause deleted” life expectancy was highly correlated with homicide rates; a measure of economic inequality added significant additional prediction, whereas median household income did not. Deaths from internal causes (diseases) show similar age patterns, despite different absolute levels, in the best and worst neighbourhoods, whereas deaths from external causes (homicide, accident, suicide) do not. As life expectancy declines across neighbourhoods, women reproduce earlier; by age 30, however, neighbourhood no longer affects age specific fertility. These results support the hypothesis that life expectancy itself may be a psychologically salient determinant of risk taking and the timing of life transitions.

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