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Rich Americans more likely to live longer than those lower down the ladder

Wealthier Americans are more likely to live into their 70s and 80s than people in the middle class and the poor, according to new research by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

A report by the nonpartisan research arm of Congress found that more than three-quarters of the richest Americans who were in their 50s in 1991 to be still alive 23 years later; by comparison, less than half of people in the bottom 20% of income earners lived to that age. Those in the top 40% by income were more likely than those in the bottom 60% to still be alive in 2014, ranging from 74 to 83 in age, the GAO concluded. 

The findings suggest a statistical correlation between wealth and a longer life, but doesn't conclusively prove that having less money means an earlier demise. Still, the report jibes with other research that links wealth and life expectancy. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the richest 1% of women live more than a decade longer than the poorest 1% of women.

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"Poverty is a life-threatening issue for millions of people in this country, and this report confirms it," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who commissioned the GAO report after meeting with residents of McDowell County, West Virginia, in a news release.

Average life expectancy for men in McDowell County is a national low of 64 years. Conversely, 350 miles away, in well-off Fairfax County, Virginia, men live to be an average of 82, the Vermont independent said.

The GAO also pointed to the widening wealth gap between the richest Americans and other affluent people. Those in the top 1% increased their average wealth from $15 million in 1989 to $37 million in 2016. By comparison, average income for the remainder of the top 20% increased from $1.6 million to $3 million. 

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