Date of Completion

Spring 5-8-2011

Thesis Advisor(s)

Jeffrey Ladewig

Honors Major

Political Science


American Politics | Family, Life Course, and Society | Health Policy | Political Science


: Health inequalities are pervasive in the United States today. Despite social epidemiologists frequently citing political and economic factors for this variance, political science has largely ignored these issues. Given this gap in the literature and the importance of the issue, more research is clearly needed to better understand the political and economic causes and implications of these health disparities. This study analyzes the topic in depth, examining how income inequality, which is believed to be a key factor in explaining health inequalities, is related to mortality rates at the county level. Examining aggregate data from all US counties from 2000-2006, this study provides the first ever county-level time series, cross-sectional analysis of the topic.

Furthermore, I advance the efforts of social epidemiologists by placing health inequalities in a political theoretical framework. Ultimately, this paper shows that income inequality is positively correlated with mortality in US counties, and that several additional political economic variables, such as county level Republican deviation in presidential elections, level of unemployment, and aggregate personal income, also have a significant effect on health inequalities.