The elephant in the room

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Kudos for Heath:

According to the statistics Dendahl cited, in 2003, 54 percent of caught drunken drivers were Hispanic and 20 percent were American Indian.


Dendahl’s comments were flat-out wrong in one respect. The legislature and governor have enacted tougher laws against drunken driving and increased enforcement since 2003, helping cut the rate of DWI deaths on New Mexico’s roads. Dendahl’s comments appear to be careless and poorly researched.

However, they weren’t racist. Dendahl stated a fact: In this state, Hispanics and American Indians are arrested for and convicted of DWI at a rate disproportionate to their percentage of the state’s population.

I’m not going to give Dendahl a free pass on this one: the remark had a negative connotation, and that’s all there is to it.

However, the numbers do indicate a problem, because income inequality and socio-economic status play a big role in the causes of these issues. The Poor Losers post below highlights some of the reasons why the poor stay poor, but a high rate of DWI arrests is just one outcome of having fewer opportunities. For example, to take the Dendahl approach, Hispanic/Latino populations more likely to die of cancer than Anglos:

Even though Hispanic women have lower rates of breast cancer (69.8 per 100,000) compared to non-Hispanic White women or Black women (111.8 and 95.4 respectively), breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanics.

Factors related to higher mortality among Latinas are most certainly due to the underutilization of Pap smear screening in this population. As an illustration, a large multiethnic Hispanic population study conducted by Ramirez et al. shows significant variations in Pap smear screening across Hispanic groups in the United States (from 53% among Mexican American women age 40 and older in Laredo, Texas to almost 80% among younger Mexican American women in San Diego, California). Comparing this study’s results to the Healthy People 2010 target of 85% to all women, only Central American women in San Francisco, Mexican American women in California, and Cuban women in Miami, Florida, are approaching these goals.


Health risk experienced by the uninsured Latino population include a reduced access to care and poorer medical outcomes. The uninsured are less likely to have a regular source of medical care, less likely to have had a recent physician visit, more likely to delay seeking medical care, more likely to report they have not received needed care, and less likely to use preventive services.

(source: Intercultural Cancer Council)

Heath is right: there are underlying factors to these types of figures. Which candidate do you think will do more to address them?

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