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Hazardous to your health

The Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy has recently published a report called "The Social Health of the States". The report examines such factors as child poverty, infant mortality, rates of high school graduation, and health insurance to calculate what it calls, as the title indicates, the "social health" of the states.

An analysis of the report in the New York Times observes:

When the results of the research came back, the map of the United States that it produced looked almost exactly like the electoral map most Americans stared at on election night in November 2000.

Eighteen of the 20 states with the worst records on social health ... were in the South, West and Southwest and had cast their electoral votes for President Bush. Eighteen of the 20 states with the best scores on social health, most in the Northeast and the Midwest, had voted for Al Gore.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. There is, of course, much one could speculate about. Not least is the question of which direction the correlation runs in — does social health predict a region's political tendencies, or the other way around? But there isn't enough data to answer that kind of question.

More data would be invaluable. The director of the institute (and "longtime champion of social reform," according to the Times), Marc Miringoff, offers an excuse for resisting much discussion of this result's political ramifications:

"I'm convinced that one of the reasons why more and more people are dropping out of the political process," [Miringoff] said, "is that the political discussion rarely addresses the problems that actually affect the way people live."

But failing to address social problems also affects the way people live. Politics is a problem, but it's one that needs solving, not ignoring.

April 27, 2002 6:19 PM

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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

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