This is a fascinating article by Neil Irwin in the NY Times: What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation? A Brief Guided Tour.

Irwin discusses the impact of plumbing, air conditioning, improvements in transportation and sanitation, and much more. He discusses what life was like in 1870, 1920, 1970, and now. Great overview.

Some of this article discusses the improvements in life expectancy that I discussed here: The Projected Improvement in Life Expectancy. Here is a graph from that post:

Death by AgeThis graph is based on data from the CDC and shows the number of people who die before a certain age, but after the previous age. As an example, for those born in 1900 (blue), 12,448 of the 100,000 born alive died before age 1, and another 5,748 died between age 1 and age 5.  That is 18.2% of those born in 1900 died before age 5.

In 1950, only 3.5% died before age 5.  In 2010, it was 0.7%.

The peak age for deaths didn’t change much for those born in 1900 and 1950 (between 76 and 80, but many more people born in 1950 will make it).

Now the CDC is projecting the peak age for deaths – for those born in 2010 – will increase to 86 to 90!

Also the number of deaths for those younger than 20 will be very small (down to mostly accidents, guns, and drugs).  Self-driving cars might reduce the accident components of young deaths.

In 1900, 25,2% died before age 20.  And another 26.8% died before 55.

In 1950, 5.3% died before age 20.  And another 18.7% died before 55.  A dramatic decline in early deaths.

In 2010, 1.5% are projected to die before age 20.  And only 9.7% before 55.  A dramatic decline in prime working age deaths.