Researchers have established that income levels have a direct impact on how long you live. But for lower income earners, location plays a large role in life expectancy, according to The Wall Street Journal's Harriet Torry citing a study from Stanford University economist Raj Chetty.

Low-income individuals tend to live more healthily and for longer in cities with college-educated populations, high incomes, more immigrants, and high levels of government expenditures, such as New York and San Francisco.

Being rich anywhere broadly correlates with enjoying good health anywhere, but location is a key factor in health for people in lower income groups. For people in the bottom income quartile, places with the highest life expectancies were mostly in California, whereas the lowest life expectancies were clustered in the industrial Midwest. The authors noted those places tend to have higher rates of smoking and obesity, and lower rates of exercise.

Local policies may play a role in this trend.

Michael Stepner, one of the study’s co-authors, said economic decline and shrinking populations in the Rust Belt aren’t necessarily to blame. Far more important appear to be initiatives at the local level, potentially because cities with high costs of living and highly educated populations are often the first to enact public-health policies such as smoking bans, restrictions on trans fats or taxes on sugary drinks.

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