According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks in the U.S. have had a death rate that is 20 to 40 percent higher than Whites for many years, the primary causes of death being heart disease and Cancer.
A new study from the University of Michigan considers this disparity from the perspective of its effects on political outcomes.
The difference in death rates between Blacks and Whites is greatest between the ages of 40 and 65, the range which coincides with a peak in voting participation. The alignments of these statistics may be affecting the political impact of the African American vote.
To analyze this, UM researchers collected mortality data from the CDC for the years between 1970 and 2004, and combined it with voting demographic data from exit polls.
Results of equalizing the death rates of Blacks and Whites show that many gubernatorial and senate elections that were won by republicans by a narrow margin would likely have been reversed, and the senate would have been under democratic control continuously from 1986 to 2002. Additionally, it seems that more states would have proceeded with Obama’s expansion of Medicaid.
Dr. Arline Geronimus, professor of health behavior and health education at SPH and co-author of the study, points out that “Who gets elected comes with a whole sense of what are the right policies … and how best to serve any population,” adding that with more voting power, black voters could encourage more policies that would address these health disparities. Disparities which are impeding black voter influence in the first place.
“The point is not so much the specific number of elections that would have gone one way or the other,” Dr. Geronimus noted. “What it does tell you is that … this health inequity does help silence Black voices in the electorate.”