What’s more common: shark attacks or voter fraud?

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This week is officially “Shark Week,” otherwise known as the Discovery Channel’s programming marathon that’s dedicated to raising awareness about the mysterious world of sharks. It’s also some of the highest rated programming in America. Last year, for instance, the week attracted over 53 million viewers, which was the best turnout since the broadcast began in the late 1980s.

Given the popularity of “Shark Week” and Blockbuster mega-hits like Jaws, sharks have been well substantiated in our culture as a ferocious and formidable species. But sharks’ lethality is hardly mysterious. In fact, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were an average of 6 shark attack deaths per year from 2003-2012.

To put that in perspective, see this chart:

shark

It’s not a complete shock that wealthy people who have access to better healthcare tend to be healthier than poor people. Last April, the Brookings Institution was able to take this one step further, and show that wealthy people live significantly longer than poor people, and that the gap is widening, especially among women.

As time goes by, medicine and technology advances naturally lead to increased lifespans from one generation to the next. A man born in 1950 is expected to lead a longer life than a man born in 1920. The exact change in life expectancy is what depends so heavily on income. A man in the richest 10% born in 1940 will live roughly 6 more years than a man in the richest 10% born in 1920, however a man born in 1940 in the bottom 10% will only live about 2 years longer than his 1920 counterpart.

The picture is worse for women, who will actually lead shorter lives in the bottom 40% than their counterparts born in 1920 will.

Now that we have the data, there’s still a question of how to address the disparity. Making healthcare more affordable and accessible to people of low-income is a step in the right direction, but stronger reforms will be needed to fix the gap entirely.

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