Where Children Live in NC Predicts Life Expectancy

A baby born in North Carolina County is expected to live 78.3 years. However, life expectancies vary significantly by a child’s county of residence, according to new county data cards released by NC Child.

The average life expectancy for a child born in Watauga County is 81 years – on par with Japan, where residents have the longest life expectancy of any major country. The average life expectancy for a child born in Swain County, just 140 miles southwest is nearly a decade less at 73 years – on par with children in Cambodia.

“Across indicators we see that a distance of fewer than 100 miles can mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes in children’s lives, a fact that simply cannot be explained by random chance or genetic predisposition,” said Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child. “These geographic disparities are a stark reminder of the profound impact the environments where our children live, play and go to school have on their long-term health opportunities.”

The data cards present a variety of indicators, ranging from income and insurance coverage to asthma and infant mortality.

In North Carolina:

  • One in 15 births (6.6 percent) is to a mother who received very late or no prenatal care.
  • One in 4 children (24.9 percent) lives in poverty.
  • 595,240 children (6.1 percent) are estimated to be food insecure, living in households that struggle to provide enough healthy, nutritious food for all members of the family.
  • One in 11 babies (8.8 percent) is born at a low birth weight putting children at greater risk for developmental delays or future health complications including infant mortality.

Child Health Data Cards

The county-level child health and well-being reports were produced by NC Child as a supplement to the North Carolina Child Health Report Card, an annual report released in partnership with the North Carolina Institute of Medicine that monitors the health and safety of children in North Carolina.