State-level public policy as a predictor of individual and family well-being

Shirley L. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This exploratory study examines the relationship between state-level public policy and individual and family well-being and factors that affect it. The inquiry, based on exchange and choice theories, assumes that state-level public policy reflects stats’ awareness of the needs of individuals and families, their ability to predict the future in failing to meet them, and the extent to which the norm of reciprocity prevails in the 50 states. Measures of states’ collective choices were states’ per capita expenditures for public welfare, education, and health, and per capita taxes in 1980; measures of states’ individual and well-or ill-being, or social malaise, were states’ teenage birthrates, infant death rates, and suicide rates. Taken into account as antecedent and intervening variables were age, gender, and racial composition, income distribution, marital, socioeconomic, and employment status of states’ populations, and attitudes toward public spending. The findings how the higher state expenditures for public welfare and for education indeed contribute to individual and family well-being as measured by lower state rates of suicide and teenage births. States per captia spending for education, which together will state per captia spending for public welfare was a positive predictor of school completion rates and positively associated with states’ income level, accounted for almost all of the variance in states’ per capita taxes. State spending for public welfare was not a predictor of state per capita taxes. These findings are cause for considerable concern given the reduced role of the federal government in human affairs, particularly in states whose choices violate the assumptions underlying exchange and choice theories and the norm of reciprocity which says that people should help, not hurt, others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-188
Number of pages28
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 16 1988

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