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Professor Anne Case on Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

May 23, 2024
World Bank Main Complex
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World Bank

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Professor Anne Case on Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

On Thursday May 23, 2024, the World Bank Governance Global Practice Book Talks welcomed Professor Anne Case who presented her book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, a book that explores the alarming decline of life expectancy in the United States. During her presentation, Case discussed the staggering rise of deaths from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism, and revealed the profound social and economic factors behind this crisis. 


About the Book:

Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row—a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year—and they’re still rising. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, known for first sounding the alarm about deaths of despair, explain the overwhelming surge in these deaths and shed light on the social and economic forces that are making life harder for the working class. They demonstrate why, for those who used to prosper in America, capitalism is no longer delivering. Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism paints a troubling portrait of the American dream in decline. For the white working class, today’s America has become a land of broken families and few prospects. As the college educated become healthier and wealthier, adults without a degree are literally dying from pain and despair. In this critically important book, Case and Deaton tie the crisis to the weakening position of labor, the growing power of corporations, and, above all, to a rapacious health-care sector that redistributes working-class wages into the pockets of the wealthy. Capitalism, which over two centuries lifted countless people out of poverty, is now destroying the lives of blue-collar America. This book charts a way forward, providing solutions that can rein in capitalism’s excesses and make it work for everyone.