The importance of the political and the social in explaining mortality differentials among the countries of the OECD, 1950-1998

Int J Health Serv. 2003;33(3):419-94. doi: 10.2190/R7GE-8DWK-YY6C-183U.


This article analyzes (within the conceptual frame defined in the previous article) the impact of political variables such as time of government by political parties (social democratic, Christian democratic or conservative, liberal, and ex-dictatorial that have governed the OECD countries during the 1950-1998 period) and their electoral support on (1) redistributional policies in the labor market and in the welfare state; (2) the income inequalities measured by Theil and Gini indexes; and (3) health indicators, such as infant mortality and life expectancy. This analysis is carried out statistically by a bivariate and a multivariate analysis (a pooled cross-sectional study). Both analyses show that political variables play an important role in defining how public and social policies determine the levels of inequalities and affect the level of infant mortality. In general, political parties more committed to redistributional policies, such as social democratic parties, are the most successful in reducing inequalities and improving infant mortality. Less evidence exists, however, on effects on life expectancy. The article also quantifies statistically the relationship between the political and the policy variables and between these variables and the dependent variables--that is, the health indicators.

MeSH terms

  • Developed Countries
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mortality*
  • Politics*
  • Public Policy*
  • Social Justice
  • Social Welfare*
  • Socioeconomic Factors