The research is published in the July/August issue of the American Journal of Human Biology.
Steckel specializes in the study of slaves' health, so he is an expert on the economics of the South. In the course of his work, he examined a map outlining Type 2 diabetes prevalence in the United States. Without a single word, the map told a story: Southern states have far higher percentages of people with this disease than do states to the north and west.
In many areas of the South stretching from Oklahoma to West Virginia, more than 10.6 percent of the adult population had Type 2 diabetes in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Percentages were lower in all other states, except in select portions of several states in the West and in pockets of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Steckel obtained state per-capita income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and diabetes figures from the CDC. He constructed a statistical model to investigate the consequences of income change on diabetes prevalence, analyzing the ratio of per-capita income in 1980 to that in 1950 and those ratios' relationship to the proportion of each state reporting Type 2 diabetes in 2009.
The model suggested that two variables, the income ratio and the share of each state's population that was African American in 2010, could explain more than half of the nation's variance in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is more common in African Americans than in whites, and blacks compose a large share of the Southern population, Steckel noted. The growth rate of median income between 1953 and 2001 in the South was 191 percent for blacks and 84 percent for whites, compared to 97 percent and 54 per
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Ohio State University