ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Socio-economic Inequality in Longevity in India

Two new indices, the index of representation in longevity and the index of socio-economic inequality in longevity, are presented for examining socio-economic inequality in longevity in India. The India Human Development Survey data from the 2004–05 and 2011–12 rounds are used to investigate socio-economic inequality based on caste, occupation, economic classes, and geographic regions. The findings suggest that India suffers from substantial socio-economic inequality in longevity with the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims being worst off. Groups such as agricultural and non-agricultural labourers, petty traders, and lower economic classes were substantially under-represented in longevity. Regionally, the south and west have over-representation, whereas the central, east, and north-east have under-representation in longevity. 

Creating the possibility for people of all sections to live longer lives is a basic and foremost challenge for any society. Given the importance of longer lives and socio-economic parity therein, specific initiatives have been taken in many countries around the globe in measuring life span as well as socio-economic inequalities in the life spans of people. For example, “Healthy People 2000,” launched in 1990 by the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services, seeks, as one of its broad health goals for the nation, to increase life expectancy among Americans of all ages (Singh and Siahpush 2006). Similarly, the “Longevity Science Advisory Panel” was established in the United Kingdom (UK) to bring actuarial science and epidemiology closer together to provide a better chance of understanding the past and the present as well as better forecasting of improvements in life expectancy (Wanless et al 2012).

That said, the concept that is generally used when it comes to measuring the length of individual lives in any society is longevity. Though it is often used as a synonym for life expectancy at a given age, it is also used to refer only to the long-lived members of a population. If increasing longevity is a des­irable objective of any society, then achieving socio-economic equality in it is another one. However, the first step towards striving for equality in longevity in any society is to measure the existing socio-economic inequalities associated with it. Further, when inequality in longevity is high, the decrease in life expectancy among those of a lower socio-economic status can outweigh the increase in life expectancy among those of a higher socio-economic status. This can lead to life expectancy below a level that is likely to be seen in a country with the same average level of social indicators (National Research Council and Committee on Population 2011: 118).

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Updated On : 8th Aug, 2022
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