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Monday, February 25, 2008

How long will John McCain live?

John McCain's age is likely to be an issue in the upcoming 2008 presidential election.

Using the National Center for Health Statistics Life tables for 2004, I calculate there is a 14% chance that a 72 year old white male will die in the next 4 years. In contrast, there is a 3.5% chance that a 47 year old black male will die in the next 4 years. Coincidentally, 3.5% is also the chance that a 61 year old white female will die in the next 4 years.

The calculations used data from tables 5 (white males), 6 (white females) and 8 (black males) of the 2004 National Center for Health Statistics life tables (reference and website below). Ages come from, as does the date of presidential inauguration (Jan 20, 2009).

The ages are chosen to be the same as John McCain (72), Barack Obama (47) and Hillary Clinton (61) at the time of inauguration, should each of them win the presidency.

Here is a table of three probabilities, the probability of dying in the next 4 years and the next 8 years, and the probability, should the person survive 4 years, the probability of dying in the following 4 years.

Demographic next 4 next 8 2nd 4 after surviving first 4
72 yr old white male 14% 35% 25%
47 yr old black male 3.5% 8.2% 4.8%
61 yr old white female 3.5% 8.4% 5.0%

Now the usual disclaimer: these calculations are for a general member of the United States population. The calculations don't necessarily apply specifically to McCain, Obama or Clinton. McCain does not have a typical background for someone of his age, so perhaps these calculations are least appropriate for him. McCain is a Vietnam vet, and a long-term prisoner of war with torture. I would expect those experiences to reduce his life span. On the other hand, he has probably been in good physical shape for most of his life, which should increase his life span.

All three, McCain, Obama and Clinton are well-to-do upper class citizens. This should likely increase their expected life spans, and decrease their probability of dying in the next given set of years.

Source: United States Life Tables, 2004. NVSR Volume 56, Number 9. 40 pp. (PHS) 2008-1120.

Typical calculation. See table 5, take 14% = 100% * (2,155 + 2,298 + 2,448 + 2,581)/68,584 for the probability that a 72 year old will die in the next 4 years.

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