Should Govt. Reduce Life-Expectancy Inequality?
In 2005, life expectancy at birth was 7% higher for American women (80.4 yrs.) than for American men (75.2 yrs.). Governments could certainly reduce this life-expectancy inequality by redistributing medical research funding on women's health to research on men's health, and general medical care funding from women to men. Consider that men are more likely to die from prostate cancer than women are from breast cancer. Yet in 2005 federal expenditures for prostate cancer research were $390 million compared to $698 million for breast cancer research (see chart above), and the American Cancer Society contributed almost three times as much for breast cancer research ($98 million) as for prostate cancer research ($36 million).
I find that people generally agree with, and rarely strongly oppose, forcible government transfers of income from the rich to the poor to reduce income inequality. But when I suggest that the government transfer medical expenditures from women to men to reduce life-expectancy inequality, I get a very different reaction. Often, the listener will simply give me a strange look and quickly depart. Those who do respond verbally, however, typically say that I couldn't possibly be serious because my idea is outrageously silly. I agree. It is silly. But I am completely serious in suggesting it.
When we seriously consider an attempt to use government power to reduce the gender inequality in life expectancy, the problems that we have always faced when government uses its power to reduce income inequality suddenly become crystal clear. Government transfers to reduce the gender gap in life expectancy would do little more than reduce improvements in both women's and men's life expectancies. For similar reasons, government transfers have done little more than reduce the income growth of both the rich and the poor. So government attempts to reduce life-expectancy inequality by transferring medical expenditures would be silly, but no sillier than its attempts to reduce income inequality by transferring money.
There are several reasons why redistributing medical expenditures to reduce gender inequality in life expectancies would not work. And there are parallel reasons for the failure of redistributing money to reduce income inequality.
Read more here of economist Dwight Lee's article "Should Government Reduce Inequality in Life Spans?"