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Ain't That America??

Ain't That America??

May 01, 2024

"Pink Houses" is a song written and performed by John Cougar Mellencamp. It was released on the October 1983 album Uh-Huh. In early 1984, it reached No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.  The song is instantly recognizable and was ranked No. 447 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is a crowd favorite, and Rachel and I have seen him perform it both times we have seen him in concert.

Sources: Amazon & Discogs

The song was recorded in a farmhouse in Brownstown, Indiana, and was inspired when Mellencamp was driving home to Bloomington, Indiana, from the Indianapolis airport. There was a black man sitting outside his little pink shotgun house with his cat in his arms, completely unperturbed by the traffic speeding along the highway in his front yard. "He waved, and I waved back," he told Rolling Stone. Mellencamp had intended Pink Houses to be a lesson on race, class, and survival in America. The repeating line in the chorus of "Ain’t that America" was meant to be sarcastic and cynical.

For those of you who would like a reminder of this iconic song, a YouTube link to the original video, which was shown regularly on MTV, is included below.

John Mellencamp - Pink Houses

Well, when we look at the state of life in America today, there is plenty to be sarcastic and cynical about. Especially when we look at the difference in life expectancy between various states and when compared to countries around the globe, as you will see in our first chart below. Interestingly, each state is represented by its own “pink house” in the chart below.

The first thing you will likely notice is how much of a difference there is in life expectancy within the United States based on where you live. It is stunning that in today's modern world, there can still be nearly 10 years of difference in life expectancy between people who live in Hawaii and people who live in Mississippi.

Also, when you focus on the bottom portion of the chart, you will note that people who live in the bottom 14 states have life expectancies on par with people living in countries with less developed healthcaresystems, like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Iran. If you look closely, our home state of Ohio is included in that group.

We have known for years that there is an economic correlation between income, wealth, and life expectancy. I often jokingly tell new clients meeting with us for the first time that studies show that people who work with a Certified Financial Planner tend to have life expectancies of three to four years longer than people who do not. This turns out to be purely a case of correlation, not causation. It seems that people who take their finances seriously enough to work with a CFP tend to have the resources needed to access health care when they need to, thus the longer life expectancies.

However, this does not explain the differences in life expectancy between people in the United States and people in England. As you can see from our last chart today, Americans tend to die earlier than people born in England, regardless of their income level. It should be noted that people at the lower end of the income spectrum have a life expectancy of nearly five years less in the United States.

Unfortunately, people on the lower end of the income and wealth spectrum seem to have shorter life expectancies no matter where in the world they live. What we don't really know is why people from two such similar countries could see such a significant difference in life expectancy. We are uncertain whether this comes from diet, exercise, availability of healthcare, or some other combination of factors.

It is no secret that people in the United States pay more for health care than any country in the world by a large margin. Based on the two charts above, it does not seem that we are getting much in return for the massive amount of spending we are doing. It would certainly be enough to make John Mellencamp sarcastically ask, “Ain't that America.”

We thought this was an important message for you to hear, especially in an election year when health care will likely be a campaign talking point for many candidates. As always, please let us know if you have questions or if we can help you or your family in any way. That is our mission and goal as we continue “Moving Life Forward.”

© 2024 Jesse Hurst

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