We are immersed in debate over the government’s role in health care, but what problems do the public want government to prioritize? Do we know? It’s research being conducted at the University of Houston.
“We found it didn’t make much of a difference to ask people about health problems among different income or educational groups,” said Elizabeth Rigby, assistant professor of political science. “But, when framed in terms of racial groups, the public expressed more skepticism about the ability of government to solve these health problems and much less support for government-based solutions.”
Rigby’s research was conducted while she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar. Respondents were asked whether the government should intervene, even if it meant raising taxes or shifting resources.
“We found that respondents were much more likely to believe that these racial disparities in health were genetic, about 60-percent agreed that that could be a cause of the disparity,” Rigby said. “When we asked about the other groups, it was about 25- or 30-percent.”
Her research was published in Social Science Quarterly. She says the study is a cue that more public education and dialogue is needed if the political debate is to be productive.
“The more we can focus on the ways on which the politics of social diversity and the politics of race and class play out, the better we can communicate with each other as well,” she said.
Elizabeth Rigby is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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