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The effects of mortality and health inequalities over disparities in political behavior

  • Author(s): Rodriguez, Javier M.
  • Advisor(s): Sears, David O
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation project addresses three observations: the degree to which researchers routinely use data collected only on survivors, ignoring that who is included in samples is pre-determined by non-random mortality; that historical mortality gaps between blacks and whites have generated a cumulative demographic contraction among blacks that constitute a non-trivial vanishing electorate; and that differences in infant mortality rates (IMRs) between blacks and whites strongly correlate with the party that controls the presidency. I used data from several sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Multiple Causes of Death, MIDUS, and the U.S. Census Bureau among others.

Because researchers are always dealing with samples truncated by non-random mortality, paradigms in social research like the relationship between age and participation are partially spurious. I find that the effect that age exerts on participation is mediated by mortality rates linked to differences in SES because, as time progresses, low-SES individuals (i.e., low-level participants) die younger than high-SES individuals (i.e., high-level participants). I also set forth a model for the impact of racial mortality gaps on the total vote lost among blacks (1970-2004). Because the dead cannot vote or voice opinions, excess deaths exacerbate the imbalance of socio-political power, especially between blacks and whites, where health differences are most pronounced. I show that the total number of excess deaths among blacks is large enough to affect the outcome of presidential elections. And, finally, I investigate the fluctuations of national and black and white IMRs associated with the political party in power. Party differences in policy preferences lead to different results in many aspects of social development, of which health is no exception. Results show that a good portion of the comparative international underperformance of the U.S. for IMR as well as of persistent black-white disparities in IMR is related to variations imparted under Republican presidents between 1965 and 2010.

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