Let's get this out of the way at the front. The study -- the one I'm about to delineate -- does not mean that there is a causal relationship between Republican presidents and infant mortality.
It means that after the authors controlled for certain relevant variables -- e.g., education attainment, the unemployment rate, and economic inequality -- there was a correlation between a GOP administration and higher rates of infant mortality. (Cue angry comment from Internet troll who does not even know what a regression analysis is).
Now that we've (hopefully) subordinated any knee-jerk responses, some new research (gated) indicates that, for reasons we do not yet know, infant mortality is higher under Republican presidents since 1965 (through 2010) than Democratic presidents.
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SHOW ME HOW
The researchers, responsibly, say that further research is needed to determine if there is statistical causation. But we do know that when a Republican is in the White House, infant mortality -- while dropping absolutely over the past seven-plus decades -- is 3 percent higher. And, as an important side note, throw away the canard that we have the best health care system in the world; the U.S. ranks 31st, neighbored by Slovakia and Chile, in infant mortality.
The study's finding do have some intuitive appeal. Republicans have long been skeptical of any national health insurance program, and their ongoing fight to attack, repeal or otherwise tarnish Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is well-known. Indeed, Republicans are skeptical of most social-welfare programs in general.
But I suspect the reason for the study's finding might go a bit deeper.
For example, in 1960, the U.S. ranked 12th lowest in infant mortality. This is why I suspect the explanation goes far beyond basic partisan labels (i.e., Democratic and Republican) and probably calls for an examination of the political plate-tectonic shifts that have taken place in American politics since the 1960s. Today is not the day for that history lesson (but see here and here for primers). But I submit the most alarming take-away from this research is not the 3 percent difference between Republicans and Democrats, but why we're comfortable living in a world where Slovakia is our equal.