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The political context of social inequalities and health

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  • Navarro, Vicente
  • Shi, Leiyu
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    Abstract

    This analysis reflects on the importance of political parties, and the policies they implement when in government, in determining the level of equalities/inequalities in a society, the extent of the welfare state (including the level of health care coverage by the state), the employment/unemployment rate, and the level of population health. The study looks at the impact of the major political traditions in the advanced OECD countries during the golden years of capitalism (1945-1980) -- social democratic, Christian democratic, liberal, and ex-fascist -- in four areas: (1) the main determinants of income inequalities, such as the overall distribution of income derived from capital versus labor, wage dispersion in the labor force, the redistributive effect of the welfare state, and the levels and types of employment/unemployment; (2) levels of public expenditures and health care benefits coverage; (3) public support of services to families, such as child care and domiciliary care; and (4) the level of population health as measured by infant mortality rates. The results indicate that political traditions more committed to redistributive policies (both economic and social) and full-employment policies, such as the social democratic parties, were generally more successful in improving the health of populations, such as reducing infant mortality. The erroneous assumption of a conflict between social equity and economic efficiency, as in the liberal tradition, is also discussed. The study aims at filling a void in the growing health and social inequalities literature, which rarely touches on the importance of political forces in influencing inequalities. The data used in the study are largely from OECD health data for 1997 and 1998; the OECD statistical services; the comparative welfare state data set assembled by Huber, Ragin and Stephens; and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 52 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 3 (February)
    Pages: 481-491

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:52:y:2001:i:3:p:481-491

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    Keywords: Social inequalities Health Welfare state;

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    Cited by:
    1. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," MPRA Paper 32392, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Herian, Mitchel N. & Tay, Louis & Hamm, Joseph A. & Diener, Ed, 2014. "Social capital, ideology, and health in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 30-37.
    3. Warren, John Robert & Knies, Laurie & Haas, Steven & Hernandez, Elaine M., 2012. "The impact of childhood sickness on adult socioeconomic outcomes: Evidence from late 19th century America," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1531-1538.
    4. Chung, Haejoo & Muntaner, Carles, 2007. "Welfare state matters: A typological multilevel analysis of wealthy countries," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 328-339, February.
    5. Abdul Karim, Syahirah & Eikemo, Terje A. & Bambra, Clare, 2010. "Welfare state regimes and population health: Integrating the East Asian welfare states," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 45-53, January.
    6. Veronika V. Eberharter, 2013. "The Intergenerational Dynamics of Social Inequality: Empirical Evidence from Europe and the United States," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 588, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    7. Komlos, John & Lauderdale, Benjamin E., 2006. "Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th-century," Discussion Papers in Economics 1241, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    8. David E. Bloom & Elizabeth Cafiero & Eva Jané-Llopis & Shafika Abrahams-Gessel & Lakshmi Reddy Bloom & Sana Fathima & Andrea B. Feigl & Tom Gaziano & Ali Hamandi & Mona Mowafi & Danny O’Farrell & E, 2012. "The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases," PGDA Working Papers 8712, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
    9. Bryant, Toba & Raphael, Dennis & Schrecker, Ted & Labonte, Ronald, 2011. "Canada: A land of missed opportunity for addressing the social determinants of health," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 44-58, June.

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