How Racial Disparities in Health Care Have Impacted U.S. Elections

Ballot-boxA new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan, shows how racial disparities in health have impacted electoral politics in the United States.

The authors of the study calculated how higher mortality rates among African Americans due at least in part to racial disparities in health care have impacted the size of the African American electorate. The authors show how many more African Americans would have been alive if mortality rates were equal to the mortality rate for Whites. They then take this figure and, using Black voter registration and turnout rates and the significant preference of Black voters for Democratic candidates, come to the following conclusions:

  • If Blacks survived at a rate equal to Whites, nearly 1 million more votes would have been cast in the 2004 presidential election. While this would not have been sufficient to swing the 2004 election to Democratic candidate John Kerry, a similar calculation for the extremely close 2000 presidential election would probably switch the result to favor Al Gore.
  • At the state level, seven U.S. Senate and 11 gubernatorial elections would have ended differently between 1970 and 2004 if Black-White mortality disparities were eliminated. All “different” election outcomes would have favored the Democratic candidate.

The paper, “Black Lives Matter: Differential Mortality and the Racial Composition of the U.S. Electorate, 1970–2004,” was published on the website of the journal Social Science & Medicine. It may be accessed here.


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