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For the first time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has collected national life expectancy data for the Hispanic population, and backed up the surprising findings of past studies: the average life expectancy of a Hispanic baby born in 2006 was 80.6 years. That’s 2.5 years longer than the life expectancy for whites, 7.7 years longer than for blacks and nearly three years higher than the national average.

According to Time magazine, the results are interesting because the Hispanic population, which makes up 15% of the American public, has several characteristics that are traditionally associated with shorter life: more obesity, less education and more poverty; 18.9% of Latinos are poor, compared with 6.1% of whites. (One exception to the paradox: Hispanics’ median income is higher than blacks’, and fewer Hispanics than blacks are poor, making it unsurprising that average Hispanic life expectancy is higher.) Time writes:

Trying to understand why Hispanics live longer is difficult because the Hispanic community as a whole is so diverse. But their diversity may well explain the mortality data. One statistical advantage may be the large number of Hispanic immigrants: 69% of the non-Mexican Latino population is foreign-born (49% of Mexican-Americans are foreign-born); it may be that healthier and longer-lived people tend to emigrate to other countries. Cubans immigrants, for example — who had their major migration to the U.S. in the 1950s — have a larger percentage of elderly individuals than American-born white or black communities.

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