According to new research from the Department of Health and Human Services, though life expectancy for the nation overall is on the rise, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased drastically in the past 20 years. In the early '80s, the richest Americans lived an average of 2.8 years longer than the poorest, but by 2000, the gap had widened to 4.5 years. Researchers report life expectancy was higher for the most affluent in 1980 than it was for the poorest sector of the population by 2000, and the gap continues to widen.

Researchers cite a number of contributing factors: affluent and better-educated people are more likely to have quality health insurance and be able to take advantage of medical advances, and are less likely to smoke, live in dangerous neighborhoods, or eat unhealthy foods. And while the statistics overall are quite depressing (though not entirely unexpected), perhaps more depressing is the coverage of the findings in the New York Times, which trotted out representatives from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to pin the disparities on "health literacy" alone. Since of course, the chief factor must be the ignorance of poor people, not, of course, any of the social and economic patterns that would make better education and health care more available to wealthier people. The absurdity of their reasoning aside, since when does an article about the factual and scientifically documented disparities of health in America require the opinions of conservative think tanks?

--Kate Sheppard