Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Voting Republican is Bad for Your Health

Okay, I can't really prove that directly. But I'm using the conceit to draw attention to the new America's Health Rankings report. This comes out every year, from the United Health Foundation and big time partners such as the American Public Health Association, and it ranks the states on a wide range of variables related to health outcomes, risk factors, and public health infrastructure. They also compute an overall index so they can put all 50 states in rank order of general healthy goodness. That may be kind of bogus, but you know how it is -- people like contests, so it helps sell the concept.

As I have done in the past, I decided to examine the relationship between each state's ranking and the percentage of the vote that went to the Democratic candidate for president, i.e. Barack Obama. There is a significant positive correlation -- r=.427, p < .001 -- which means that the two variables are somehow related. There are outliers, however -- exceptions. Here's what the plot looks like:

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You'll notice that there are three comparatively healthy states that went heavily for McCain, in the upper left hand corner. These are Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Utah always ends up being healthier than most factors would predict, because the Mormons eschew tobacco -- and probably to a lesser extent because they don't use alcohol either. Wyoming and Idaho are sparsely populated, rural states. According to the report, Idaho benefits from low rates of infectious disease, clean air, and relatively low income inequality. Wyoming has similar advantages. Take away these three, and the association is much more consistent. (D.C., unfortunately, is not included in the health rankings and would no doubt violate the pattern in the other direction.)

What is it about those unhealthy, McCain - loving states? They have high child poverty rates, low spending on public health, high rates of smoking and obesity, lots of people without health insurance, low average educational attainment -- all problems the Democrats want to do something about and Republicans typically don't. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Anonymous said...

free market. each to his own. rip off others if possible. nature loves a winner. social darwinism. anyway god is king. he has it all figgered out. competition is good. the weak are losers. children in trouble have bad parents. taxes are bad. they go to pay for immigrants, so they shouldn’t be paid. the rich and tv stars are awesome. abortion is a sin. muslims are terrorists. sand niggers have no right to oil.

!! Anti-terror law requires God be acknowledged quote:

Under state law, God is Kentucky's first line of defense against terrorism.

The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as "stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth." (see the rest)

Kentucky com


scalpel said...

Plot it next to this chart, and the correlation is even higher.

Utah, Wyoming, Idaho? They aren't just sparsely populated rural states. They have something else in common.

Why would Delaware's health be relatively worse than expected? Oh.

Cervantes said...

Well scalp, it's true that their are substantial disparities in health status between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites, and that is one component of inequalities in health status among the states. But it's definitely not the only one. In fact, among the least healthy counties in the U.S. are largely white areas of Appalachia, which definitely vote Republican. Also, white people in the Black Belt of the old South are relatively unhealthy as well. So this is a complicated story. I'm oversimplifying partly just for yucks, and partly to get some thinkin' started.

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