Voter demand for fluoridated water: a tale of two c(av)ities

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Hersch, Philip L.
Pelkowski, Jodi E.

Hersch, Philip L.; Pelkowski, Jodi E. 2013. Voter demand for fluoridated water: a tale of two c(av)ities. Applied Economics Letters, v.21:no.1:pp.51-54


Government fluoridation of public water systems to promote dental health has long been advocated by many health associations, based on the findings of mainstream scientific studies. Despite this, fluoridation remains a controversial issue. Some in the public are antithetical to the science behind fluoridation while others view it as an infringement on individual choice. Voting data from referendums in two of the six largest US cities without fluoridated water (Portland, Oregon, and Wichita, Kansas) are used to examine the factors driving voter demand for and against fluoridation. Although regression analysis reveals differences between the cities, a strong commonality is greater support for fluoride coming from voting precincts with higher concentrations of college graduates. Additionally, even though advocates often laud water fluoridation as a relatively inexpensive way to extend dental health benefits to all children (regardless of income levels), presence of children in households surprisingly does not appear to translate into voter support. Lastly, after controlling for socio-economic factors, results suggest that opposition to fluoridation does not appear to come from the political centre, but from the libertarian right and environmental left.

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