Taylor Darden



Area of Doctoral Study: Psychology
Undergraduate Institute: University of Dayton
Graduate Institute: Towson University

Research Advisor: Kenneth Maton, PhD

Description of Research

Health disparities are a serious public health issue that disproportionately affect individuals from traditionally marginalized and oppressed populations, such as racial/ethnic minorities. For instance, African Americans tend to disproportionately have chronic health conditions that decrease their overall quality of life and increase mortality (CDC, 2013). Legislation is one of the key mechanisms through which social change can occur and is an integral part of addressing racial health disparities (Maton, 2017; Shah, 2011; Young et al., 2015). It is important to be aware of and understand the various factors that can influence bill progression, both at the bill-level and the legislator-level, respectively. Two such factors that the literature suggests impact bill progression are 1) the use of research evidence in legislation and 2) legislator characteristics (e.g., race/ethnicity). However, little is known about if and how these factors impact legislation specifically related to racial health disparities.

This study examined U.S. federal health legislation using Quorum, a legislative data collection tool. Specifically, federal legislation introduced between the 101st and 116th Congress (1989-2020) was analyzed, in part through the use of Boolean searches for keywords and phrases. Analyses focused on: 1) whether the presence of research keywords predicts bill progression, and 2) whether legislator factors such as race and racial composition of constituents influence their legislative behavior such as voting and bill sponsorship. At the bill-level, I conducted a keyword search of references to research on health-related bills in general, and racial/ethnic health disparities bills in particular. On the legislator level, I examined the legislative activities (voting record; bill sponsorship) of legislators concerning racial/ethnic health disparities bills.