Life Expectancy: Rural vs. Urban Dwelling Individuals

Born Between 1880 and 1900

 

Jamie Bartlett, Meghan Carson, Meghan McGinty

 

Abstract

            Our objective was to determine the life expectancies of individuals born from 1880 to 1900, specifically, to compare the life expectancy of individuals living in rural areas to individuals living in urban areas in Southeastern Wisconsin.  To find out the life expectancies of these individuals we went to several cemeteries in both rural and urban areas and collected birth and death dates.  Our P value was 7.8651 X 10-7 meaning the life expectancies of each group of individuals are significantly different from each other.  This indicates that individuals who lived in an urban area had a longer life expectancy at every age, than that of individuals who lived in a rural area for that age cohort.

Keywords:  life expectancy, cohort, rural, urban

 

Introduction

            There are different life expectancies for each age cohort and still more variations in their life expectancy; this all depends on such factors such as education, socioeconomic status, region, and standard of medical care.  These factors are all important to consider when researching life expectancy.  In our investigation we were focused on how life expectancies relate to the standards of living, including such aspects as housing, air quality, and working conditions.  This investigation was used to determine the relative life expectancy of each group of individuals from the same age cohort.  We hypothesized that individuals who lived in rural areas would have a longer life expectancy than that of individuals who lived in urban areas.  We based this hypothesis on the fact that factory emissions were not regulated during this time and individuals who lived and worked in the urban areas where the Industrial Revolution was fostered, this meant that the individuals in urban areas would have been exposed to the emissions let off by these industrial centers, whereas individuals in rural areas would not have been exposed to these emissions and enjoyed better air quality.  Studies have shown that air quality directly affects the health of individuals (Graham & Johnson 2005).  Knowing that air quality affects the health of individuals; we then can assume that air quality will in tern affect life expectancy.  During this time, housing and working conditions in urban areas were poor compared to the housing and working conditions in rural areas (Gulis 2000).  This would also support our hypothesis, that individuals living in urban areas would have a poorer life quality than that of individuals living in rural areas.

 

Materials and Methods

            On October 1st, 2008 we started visiting cemeteries in Southeastern Wisconsin, we visited cemeteries in the city and in rural areas, including, Mt. Olivet, Forest Home, Highland Memorial, Rochester, and Oakridge Cemetery.  We collected 1032 individuals’ birth and death years, specifically 516 urban dwelling individuals, and 516 rural dwelling individuals.  Data was collected and analyzed in an Excel spreadsheet that calculated life expectancy made by Rebecca Burton, Ph.D. at Alverno College.  Life expectancy data was graphed and analyzed using a two-tailed T-test in Excel 2007 version.

 

Results

            We found that the life expectancy of individuals that lived in urban areas was greater than that of individuals that lived in rural areas.  T-test confirmed that the data sets are statistically different from each other (Fig. 1, P = 7.8651 X 10-7).  The average life expectancy of an individual living in urban area (Mean = 78 years) was higher than an individual living in rural area (Mean = 68 years).  For each cohort the life expectancy follows the same pattern right after birth is the highest life expectancy for an individual and life expectancy progressively lessens as the individual ages, as expected.  Each cohort also shows a slight increase in life expectancy between the ages 80 years and 90 years.  The greatest difference in life expectancy for each cohort is shown on the graph at ages 0 to 10 years and 90 to 99 years. 

 

Discussion

            Our hypothesis was not supported in this investigation; we found that individuals who lived in urban areas actually had a longer life expectancy than that of individuals who lived in rural areas for that age cohort.  During our research we found several reasons why our hypothesis might not be supported, including access to health care and education.  Studies have shown that people who had more education and a higher economic status, could expect to have a longer life expectancy than that of someone of a lower economic and educational status (Lynch 2003).  Individuals in urbanized areas might have had better access to education that those individuals living in rural areas, this could be one reason that our hypothesis was not supported.  Studies have shown that access to healthcare directly affects the health and life expectancy of individuals (Mirowsky & Ross 2002). This could be another reason our hypothesis would not have been supported, because individuals living in urban areas might have had better access to health care facilities, than those individuals living in rural areas.

            If we were to do this experiment over again, we would want to investigate an urban area that was potentially more affected by industrial revolution emissions than Milwaukee.  We might also want to investigate differences in gender between these two areas.  We would also want to find a way of establishing which individuals that were buried in the rural or urban areas actually lived the majority of their life in that same area.


Figure 1 Survivorship curve for individuals living in Urban and Rural Areas

 

             


Literature Cited

 

Graham, J., Johnson, P. (2005). Fine particulate matter national ambient air quality standards: public health impact on population sin the northeastern United States. Environmental Health Perspectives. 9, 1140-1147.  Retrieved October 25, 2008 from JSTOR database.

 

Gulis, Gabriel. (2000). Life expectancy as an indicator of environmental health. European Journal of Epidemiology. 16: 161-165.  Retrieved October 25, 2008 from JSTOR database.

 

Lynch, Scott, M. (2003). Cohort and life-course patterns in the relationship between education and health: A hierarchical approach. Demography. 40: 309-331. Retrieved October 12th, 2008 from JSTOR database.

 

Morowski, J., Ross, C. (2002). Family relationships, social support and subjective life expectancy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 43: 469-489.