A question about age and presidential candidates.

Does Ron Paul’s announcement that he is running as a Republican in 2012, at age 75, make him the first major party candidate older than the average life expectancy?

The reason I post this, is it’s not as simple a question as I first thought. Life expectancy has changed over the centuries. Graphing Presidential candidates ages to the life expectancy during the time they were running for office, is turning out to be a bit of a task.

I was able to find at least one reference that listed the white male life expectancy in 1984 as 71.8 years. Reagan was older than that in 1984.

If you’re talking about gender- and race-neutral life expectancy than I believe Ron Paul is still below the current number (which is ~78 as of 2009, right?).

Actually by limiting it to male life expectancy it also seems that in 1958 the US male LE was 67 years. Ike was 68 that year.

And, to complete the multi-post, I would not be at all surprised to find that many of the earlier presidents (Jackson @ 65 in 1832, Adams @ 61 in 1796, Monroe @ 58 in 1816, Jefferson, etc…) were well above the male life expectancy of those years.

That would be my guess as well. Also, life expectancy is generally from the year of birth. Someone born in 1900 has the life expectancy of as measured from 1900 data, even if the question is asked about them 50 years later.

So, while Reagan was elected at age 69 in 1980, his life expectancy should be measured against other men born in 1911, not what the life expectancy is for males born in 1980.

Well, I would apply the life expectancy of the race/gender of the candidate, not the average life expectancy of any human. So I incorrectly stated my question in the original OP (which you seemed to have realized and corrected for already - thank you).

What source are you using? Is there a definitive source? I keep finding different numbers for the same time frames from different sources. To further confuse the matter, anything past half a century ago seems to move more into the area of ‘speculated average life expectancy’ rather than the more ‘hard’ data we have now.

In addition, it even seems that determining the actual age of people pre-civil war can be difficult.

For example, John Adams was elected at the age of 62 and the ‘speculated’ average life expectancy at the time (1790) was 34.5.

So I guess the short answer to my op, is no, the more research I do.

My definition is wrong, at least as far as Wiki is concerned.

Their definition says,

By this definition, it seems to me that it is impossible to exceed your life expectancy, since the definition specifies you are alive and is calculated on future years. It would be possible for you to have a life expectancy equal to that of your current age if statistics indicate you will have less than a full year to live.

So, how does the OP want to define it?

Which raises the interesting point that at the time the Constitution was written the required age for the presidency was older than the male life expectancy at birth.

This is one of the things I’m struggling with, because there is also a class issue (even today, but much more so in the early years); Meaning that wealthy people lived much longer than poor people. So to compare John Adams to the life expectancy of the general white male in America in 1790 may not have much real value.

The simple answer to the op I actually wrote, is no. However, in terms of trying to craft some kind of paper on presidential candidates and life expectancy (and we have mostly discussed Presidents, not the broader spectrum of all candidates of major parties - elected or not) it gets more complex and more interesting.

The point brought up by Jas about the required age to be president being higher than the average life expectancy at the time, is great stuff to explore for a paper on the subject, for example.

That Wiki article is worth reading. It mentions that because infant mortality was so high, it gave a distorted impression of how long people would live, once they survived infancy.

Yes, this is also a very important point to mention, if you are in fact writing a paper Hambil. I’m not sure what kinda of primary sources you would need, but finding life expectancy after infancy would be a very useful data point.

IIRC, though, this doesn’t actually happen until some point well past 100.

More fair than you might think. John Adams came from common stock. He ended up with a fair amount of wealth through some prudent investments, but, unlike Washington or Jefferson, he had to constantly worry about his personal expenses while in office.

Of course, he also came from particularly long lived forbears and took daily exercise, which may have more to do with his longevity.

You’re going to have to go down a ridiculously long list of presidential primary candidates to conclusively crown Ron Paul with that distinction.

I found one: Stephen M. Young Democratic primary candidate in 1968 (He won the Ohio primary) was 77.

My math sucks. Young was 79 in 1968.

Mike Gravel ran in 2008, at age 78. Nobody took him seriously, but he ran.

Alben Barkley was 74 when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1952. He didn’t stick around very long in the campaign, but as he was the incumbent Vice President, it was probably a serious bid in his own mind.

Harold Stassen was certainly a serious candidate when he campaigned in 1948 and 1952. However, Stassen also campaigned in *1992 *when he was 85 years old.