Health and political preference: An American tale


Kumar, Sanjeev (2018). Health and political preference: An American tale. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Recent political events have garnered significant interest in building a better understanding of the factors that determine political preference. The United States, in particular, has engendered some interesting questions regarding its ability to effectively respond to some of its idiosyncratic political and socio-economic problems like racial inequality and the institutional complexity of the health-care system, which has given rise to sharp health disparities. Previous research has identified many correlates of political preference; however, we could find no study that has evaluated the association between self-assessed health (SAH) and ideology keeping in mind the possibility of the health being a causal factor affecting political preference. Using Generalized Ordered Logistic (GOL) models, we show strong contemporaneous and intertemporal associations between SAH status during adolescence and ideology during the young adulthood. People who reported being in excellent SAH when they were around age 20 were more likely to endorse conservative political ideology when they were around age 30. Interestingly, once we account for unobservables through controlling for the lagged value of ideology (in addition to other covariates), we found that only those who experienced a negative change in their health status tend to become relatively even more conservative in comparison to their political preference when they were around age 20. Additionally, we find interesting differences across gender: while it was the negative change in health stock of men located on the left of the political spectrum that drove them to conservatism, the opposite was found to be true for women. We interpret our findings in light of an American narrative "the centrality of the idea of individual responsibility a la rugged individualism” and propose that people who transition from excellent to poorer health tend to endorse conservative ideology with more intensity.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Kumar, Sanjeev

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID