Equal opportunity to participate in politics is a basic requisite of democracy. Yet, in the U.S. the haves enjoy a participatory advantage over the have-nots—an advantage that is also reflected across racial lines. But an important source of participatory advantage comes from an usually overlooked suspect: Premature death. Black people, for example, die sooner than white people due to social—not genetic—factors. And because the dead cannot vote, premature mortality is a powerful force that dilutes the political voice of the poor and racial minorities like blacks and Native Americans.
The figure at the top shows the age-at-death distribution of whites and blacks in 2004. It shows that blacks consistently die at higher rates than whites throughout their lifetime (the life expectancy of blacks in 2004 was 73 years). It also shows that the racial mortality gap is larger between the ages of 40 and 65—when socioeconomic differences amplify. The figure at the bottom is the age distribution of those who voted in the presidential election of 2004. And it shows that a critical portion of the electorate comes from people between the ages of 40 and 65. This means that black people are not only losing members of their community at a higher pace than whites but are also losing them during the age-range when political participation is most critical.
We calculated the total number of votes lost to excess mortality among black people between 1970 and 2004. Our results show that 2.7 million blacks should not have died between 1970 and 2004 if they had the mortality rate of their similar whites. Of these, 1.9 million would have survived to 2004, of which over 1.7 million would have been of voting age. Over 1 million black votes were not casted in the 2004 presidential election due to excess mortality. Even though these votes would not have been enough to change the presidential election outcome in 2004, we found that the votes lost to excess mortality among the black community would have changed the outcome of 7 senatorial and 11 gubernatorial elections between 1970 and 2004. This paper, coauthored by co-Director of the Inequality and Policy Research Center, Javier M. Rodríguez, was recently published in Social Science & Medicine.
Post-recession recovery arrives later to minority groups
Javier M. Rodríguez, PhD
Inequality and Policy Research Center
Researchers at the Inequality and Policy Research Center (IPRC) find that post-recession recovery arrives later for affluent Hispanics and black people, but much later for the poor (of any race), with poor black people having to wait a staggering 20 quarters (5 years) to see their incomes begin to increase.
This is especially worrisome considering the nature of business cycles, in which members of minority communities and the poor are also the first in experiencing unemployment and wage reduction. Less effective, productive time for wealth accumulation may contribute to perpetuate their disadvantage and, consequently, increasing income and wealth inequality between the races/ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses in the US.
The Impact of State Capacity on Inequality at the Subnational Level
Giacomo Di Pasquale & Alma Bezares Calderon
Inequality and Policy Research Center
This report provides new evidence on how socioeconomic inequality is affected by the capacity of states to provide welfare services. Looking at 17 Latin American countries, we observe that there is strong variation in the presence of states across their territories, and that a state’s level of presence has consequences for the socioeconomic characteristics of the country. We also observe that in countries with high variation of subnational state capacity—that is, a state’s military, administrative, and institutional capabilities to effectively govern its territories and provide services to their citizens—social policies are not uniformly executed across territories. Accordingly, the effectiveness of such policies vary. And more so, depending on the level of territorial development where the policies are executed. Our analysis of the data shows that these dynamics have consequences for the levels of income inequality—which in turn exacerbate the differences in development between regions.
This report focuses on Latin America, a region for a long time characterized by very high levels of income inequality. In Latin America, political and economic elites established—since Spanish and Portuguese colonialism in the 15th century—an inefficient structure of goods and services allocation that has prevented fair redistribution across subnational regions. Such inefficiency led to the configuration of weak states that are not able to effectively distribute public goods and services to the poor and invest little in the geographic areas with low state presence (but where the resources are most needed).
Whereas state penetration allows redistributing more in certain areas of the country, there are other areas isolated from the presence of the state where access to public goods and transfers are not possible. The absence of state presence impinges, in turn, the strengthen on governmental institutions, challenging to identify and take care of the needs of the population, extract resources, provide public goods and services, and redistribute resources appropriately. As the state presence is weaker in these areas, their population becomes less relevant in political terms (for example showing lower voter turnout and trust), further decreasing the interest of the government to deliver any type of public good or service to redistribute.
We based our analysis on data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Latin America Population Surveys from Vanderbilt University, and a series of surveys implemented by Luna and Soifer (2017)—which includes a set of questions that measure the territorial influence that the central state has across a country.
Our analysis shows a positive correlation between state capacity and income inequality, with a positive yet small coefficient on a model that regresses net income inequality on state capacity (proxied with the Myers score ), controlling for time and subnational factors (Figure 1). Results also show a positive relationship between territorial reach of the state and public goods provision (proxied with access to piped water and sewage system) (Figure 2). We also find a negative effect of a region’s distance to the capital on national income inequality (proxied with the Gini coefficient) (Figure 3). The results represented in the three figures suggest that higher levels of state capacity (in terms of provision of services and territorial reach) reduce inequality at the subnational level.
In this brief report the relationship between state capacity and inequality has been discussed. The conducted analysis on 17 Latin American countries shows that high levels of state capacity reduce inequality at the subnational level. When central states have the ability to provide welfare services, inequality across different regions of a country and different social classes tends to be lower. Furthermore, the analysis shows that the more local communities are far from the capital, the higher inequality tends to be in those communities, denoting difficulties (in this case in developing countries) for central states to fairly redistribute goods and services in all regions.