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Thursday, May 24, 2012

States, Corruption, and Safety

Our chapter on federalism discusses ways in which the states differ from one another.  Two new analyses suggest that the differences on ethics and safety are particularly vivid.

From Harvard's Kennedy School of Government:
Why are certain U.S. state governments more prone to corruption than others? That question is at the heart of a new Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Faculty Working Paper co-authored by HKS Assistant Professor Filipe Campante. "Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from US States" analyzes the connections between isolated state capitals, media and voter accountability and corruption.
"Some have raised the idea that having a capital city that is geographically isolated from the main centers of population is conducive to higher corruption, as the distance would lead to less accountability," the authors write. "[These observations have] largely not been tested systematically, however, which we believe is due to the lack of appropriate measurement tools for the relevant idea of the spatial distribution of population around the capital city."
By examining detailed population data and federal conviction records, the researchers found that isolated U.S. capital cities are more prone to government corruption. They also find that they are associated with less accountability in a number of dimensions -- including less accountability by the media and voters and more special interest money flowing into the system.

Having lived in both New York (capital: Albany) and California (capital: Sacramento), I think that Professor Campante is onto something.  Many years ago, I worked for a New York state senator who relinquished the chair of the Insurance Committee to avoid conflicts with his new law practice (so far, so good).  The majority leader then gave the chair to another member who was under indictment for an insurance fee-splitting scheme.  The move got little press attention.

California and New York may be sleazy but they're also relatively safe.  From the Trust for America's Health
In a new report, The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, 24 states scored a five or lower on a set of 10 key indicators of steps states can take to prevent injuries. Two states, California and New York, received the highest score of nine out of a possible 10, while two states scored the lowest, Montana and Ohio, with two out of 10.

Injuries - including those caused by accidents and violence - are the third leading cause of death nationally, and they are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and 44.

The Facts Hurt report, released today by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), concludes that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.

Overall, New Mexico has the highest rate of injury-related deaths in the United States, at a rate of 97.8 per 100,000 people, while New Jersey has the lowest rate at 36.1 per 100,000. Overall, the national rate is 57.9 per 100,000 Americans who die in injury-related fatalities.