A talk by scholars Javier M. Rodríguez and Dean Robinson will explore “What COVID 19 Reveals about Politics, Policy and Racial Health Inequalities in the United States” at 3 p.m. March 30, via Zoom.  

The event, hosted by Illinois State University’s African American Studies and Latin American and Latino/a Studies programs, is free and open to the public. Register for the talk here. Registration closes at noon Friday, March 26.

The Zoom link will be sent out the week of Monday, March 22. Contact dlmast2@ilstu.edu with any questions.  

Drawing from their ongoing research on the political epidemiology of mortality, Dr. Robinson and Dr. Rodriguez will explore the social forces influencing longstanding Black-white health inequalities in the United States. The talk will lay out accumulating evidence about the relationship between politics and health, identify the historical period when health disparities narrowed, and what accounted for that convergence. Identifying trends of the past are relevant to our understanding of COVID-19 as the pandemic lays bare the health disparities that predated it, and the “political economy” that underpins the tragic morbidity and mortality figures that continue to mount. Black and brown people, the poor and working class in general, were at greater risk for illness and death prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 exposes the “underlying condition” that is a fundamental problem with U.S. democracy. 


headsot of Dr. Javier Rodriguez
Dr. Javier M. Rodríguez

Rodríguez is the Mary Toepelt Nicolai and George S. Blair Assistant Professor of Politics and Government, and co-director of the Inequality and Policy Research Center and the Institute for Democratic Renewal at Claremont Graduate University. After receiving his Ph.D. from UCLA, Rodríguez completed his postdoctoral training at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. He has published a number of important articles in multidisciplinary journals (including nternational Journal of EpidemiologyHealth Affairs, and Social Science & Medicine among others). Rodríguez is a leading scholar in the advancement of a “political epidemiology” approach to health inequality in the U.S. His research is among the first to identify the political causes and consequences of U.S. infant mortality, Black excess mortality, and premature death among the poor and working-class individuals. Rodríguez has been recently awarded research grants from the Russell Sage Foundation, the Social Security Administration, and the National Institute on Aging to probe the mysteries of the recent halt to life expectancy gains across U.S. subpopulations, and the rise in educational and income inequality in life expectancy since 1990.  

headshot of Dr. Dean Robinson
Dr. Dean Robinson

Robinson is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale University in political science and did postdoctoral training in social epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His teaching and research focus on politics, policy, and racial and class inequalities in health In the United States. His current projects include a study on the antipoverty policy on Black and white birth outcomes, and a coauthored book project (with Javier Rodriguez) on politics, economics, and Black-white trends in U.S. mortality. He is co-PI on “MOCHA Moving Forward: a CBPR Investigation of Chronic Disease Prevention in Older, Low-income, African-American Men” funded by NIMHD, and “Simulation and Decision-Analysis Algorithms for Integrated Modeling of Diseases: A healthy lives for all approach” funded by the National Science Foundation.