The remarkable map below is from health researcher Bill Gardner via Sarah Kliff at Wonk Blog, This Map of America’s Female Mortality Rates Is Pretty Terrifying. The reason that Kliff refers to the map as “pretty terrifying” is that 43% of US counties are seeing rising levels of female mortality. In the red counties, the life expectancy of women is going down. In the light blue-green counties, it is increasing slowly. And in the blue counties, it is increasing substantially. The map is indeed striking:
But there is an elephant in this map that neither Gardner nor Kliff even mention. For that, we must turn to economist Dean Baker who wrote this morning, “I hate to be partisan here (seriously—I criticize the Obama administration all the time), but this map showing declines (blue) in mortality rates for women and increases (red) looks a lot like voting patterns.” And in fact, the correlation is shockingly clear:
As Baker notes, this isn’t as simple as “the Republicans did it!” For one thing, there are many factors that affect healthcare that are not determined by state policy. But there are still a great many. How Medicaid is run in one such factor. But there are lots of others. Just think about reproductive healthcare. A state can (and increasingly does) make it harder to get birth control and abortions. What’s more, red states simply make it harder to be poor, and poverty is a killer even under the best of circumstances.
It is interesting that Kliff didn’t even mention this correlation, especially when the colors (red and blue) correspond exactly to the traditional (Republican and Democratic) party colors. And I don’t expect many outlets to pick up on this correlation. It will be seen as too partisan, even though it is just a fact—and one that has broad implications. But as Baker notes, “Needless to say, if the color pattern were reversed we would be hearing this as the lead news story for the next century.”