Health and Health Disparities Across US States

Why do health and health disparities differ across US states?

Health and longevity vary dramatically across US states.  For instance, life expectancy is over 81 years in Minnesota and Hawaii but only 75 years in West Virginia and Mississippi. Working as a research team led by Jennifer Karas Montez and Mark Hayward, we have described large disparities across US states in mortality and disability.

Why the focus on US states and not other geographic level, such as counties?  Since 1980s, the gradual devolution of federal power to US states created increasingly varied political and socio-economic regimes in different states.  We hypothesize (and increasingly support this hypothesis with hard evidence) that these differences impact the state residents’ health and wellbeing.

How do states influence their residents’ health and longevity?   States may differ in their support of public education, employment opportunities, more or less progressive income tax, more or less generous Medicaid thresholds, higher or lower tobacco excise taxes.  These decisions influence health of all their residents.