I discovered a statistical oddity playing around with a set of interactive maps about well-being in America. Click the map and you can get a handy readout on how well people are doing in the state or U.S. Congressional district of your choice.
I needed the maps for my radio story about wide gaps of well-being around the country. While the on-air story is about Virginia, I could not resist clicking on the spot where I grew up, the southern outskirts of a mill and college town of Waterville, Maine.
It turns out the dividing line between each of Maine's two Congressional districts (we are so small, we only get two) lies a short stroll down the road from my dad's house. According to the American Human Development Project's maps, people in my dad's district can expect to live to age 77.
Just down the road, in the adjacent Congressional District, you get two more years to live. Sounds like a pretty good trade: walk a couple of minutes in that part of Maine's rural splendor and add two years to your life.
A better bet for living longer is suggested in the full, published report that goes with the interactive maps. "Measure of America" suggests a practical way to erase gaps in longevity in America is to take on what are described as the "Fatal Four": smoking, crummy diet, lack of exercise and drinking too much.
Those will help with longevity. We also need work on income. In my dad's Congressional district, annual household income lags the nearby district by nearly $5000 a year. That must be connected to education. People have more schooling just across that line.
Listen to the full Marketplace story: