The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Advertising Death


How does an economist entertain himself, when his wife is travelling?  They study weird stuff, of course.

I noticed the Obituary section of our local newspaper was larger than normal and deserved a little analysis.  There were 44 deaths to report.  Of those, only 31 reported their age or year of birth.  Their average age was 73.4 years.  Of the total of 44 deaths, 23 were men and 21 were women.  The average age of the men was 73.9 years, but had two young “outliers” of 18 and 32.  After eliminating those men dying unusually young, the average age of the men increased to 79.7 years.

The average age of the women was 72.4 years.  Eliminating the one early death of 35, the average age of the women became 75.5 years.  Wait a minute!  The average age of the men was greater than that of the women.  Women normally have a longer life expectancy.  Maybe, they now have equal access to bad habits?  (Of course, a sample size of only 44 proves nothing but is nonetheless interesting.)

More interesting to me, 14 people merely had a free death notice, which are quite short with little information.  Thirty people paid good money to buy an advertisement of their death, complete with their life’s achievements and loved ones.  In other words, almost a third did not pay for advertising their death.  What the obituary page doesn’t show is why?  Are blacks disproportionately represented in the notices?  Is any particular religion over-represented or under-represented?  How about political affiliation?

I have long said the advertising industry is the most powerful industry in this country, but why does a long, detailed death advertisement mean you’ll be remembered, but you won’t be remembered if you don’t spend all that money?


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