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Julia Lynch on Regimes of Inequality: The Politics of Health and Wealth

February 12, 2019 - 3:30pm

Humphrey Forum at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

301 19th Ave S

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Julia LynchPhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, on "Regimes of Inequality: The Politics of Health and Wealth": 

Inequality has become an intractable feature of the rich industrialized democracies, despite consensus among mass publics and experts that more social and economic equality is desirable. This book examines the political dynamics underlying inequality’s remarkable resilience since 1980. To do so, it traces the largely unsuccessful attempts of west European governments during this period to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in health. In England, France, and Finland, three quite different countries that span the range of European political economies, governments stated their intention to reduce inequalities in health by addressing the underlying social determinants that cause disparate health outcomes -- yet in all three cases, they were largely unable or unwilling to put into place the policies that could achieve these goals. I use data drawn from process tracing case studies, in-depth interviews, and content analysis of government reports and mass media to understand why this occurs. I argue that when center-left politicians take up the issue of socioeconomic inequalities in health, they do so in response to perceived taboos against redistribution, public spending and market regulation in a neoliberal era. Reframing inequality as a matter of health is at best a partial solution, however, insofar as it reshapes the policy-making environment surrounding social inequality in ways that make it more difficult to reduce either socioeconomic inequality or health inequalities.

Event co-sponsored by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Department of Political Science, and the Cowles Endowment for the Study of Public Service.