Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

PLoS One


Geisel School of Medicine

Additional Department

Department of Sociology



Longevity in the United States ranks below most other Western nations despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any other country. Across the world, mortality has been declining, but in the USA the trend toward improvement has stalled in some middle-aged demographic groups. Cross-national studies suggest that social welfare is positively associated with longevity. The United States has less government sponsored welfare, education and healthcare than almost all other Western nations, but the level of this social welfare commitment varies across the states. In this study we examined the association of state tax burden and state government expenditures with subsequent middle-aged mortality.


The primary exposure was state tax burden in 2005, defined as proportion of all state income paid to the state. We also examined the impact of state expenditures per capita in 2005 for education, healthcare, welfare, police and highways. The dependent variable was mortality during the subsequent 10 years. Death counts and population sizes by sex, age group and race strata for 2006–2015 were abstracted from CDC WONDER. Binomial logistic regression was employed based on the number of deaths and underlying population within each county-sex-age-race bin.


State tax burden in 2005 varied from 5.8% to 12.2%. An increase of 1.0 percentage point in state tax burden was associated with a 5.8% (SE = 0.1%) reduction in mortality adjusted for sex, age and race, but was associated with a 1.1% (SE = 0.1%) reduction when further adjusting for state income and education levels. Controlling for sex, age and race each type of state expenditures was associated with decreases in middle aged mortality, notably K-12 education (reduction of 4.7%, SE = 0.1%, per 10% expenditure increase) except healthcare but all types were associated with mortality decreases further controlling for state income and education.


The residents of states with higher state taxation and higher expenditures per capita have lower middle aged mortality rates.




This work is under CC BY 4.0 license.

Original Citation

MacKenzie TA, Houle J, Jiang S, Onega T. Middle-aged death and taxes in the USA: Association of state tax burden and expenditures in 2005 with survival from 2006 to 2015. PLoS One. 2019;14(4):e0214463. Published 2019 Apr 12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0214463

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