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Graph showing obesity rates by gender
Brookings Now

Charts of the Week: Biden’s cabinet diversity; COVID-19 in Trump-won counties; health inequities


In this final edition in 2020 of Charts of the Week: proposals for diversity members in Biden’s cabinet; COVID-19 cases emerging fastest in Trump-won counties; and racial inequities in health and health care.


Figure 1

Nicol Turner Lee and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas document the racial and gender composition of previous presidential administrations and offer suggestions for President-elect Joe Biden to be more inclusive in his own. During the first 100 days under the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, about 72 percent of all appointees were white individuals, as indicated by the chart. Lee and Tenpas provide several approaches to bring more Black officials into the Biden cabinet, including establishing an inaugural Office of Diversity and Inclusion to develop criteria for diverse hiring, and retention and adopting the use of the “Rooney Rule” to require interviews with candidates of color. “In a politically and racially fractured nation, moving toward increased representation of all leaders by race, gender, sexual orientation, and ideology does not occur by accident,” they explain. “More importantly, diversity should not just focus on representation. Rather, investments in diverse talent not only help make America stronger and more resilient, but it gets us closer to our constitutional mandates, resulting in a more perfect and inclusive union.”


William Frey analyzes demographic trends in the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases across the country in recent months. At the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 was largely painted as a “blue state” phenomenon due to a concentrated number of cases in urban areas. However, over the summer, COVID-19 rates increased faster in Republican-leaning states and counties. The chart shows Trump-won counties began experiencing more cases compared to Biden-won counties in August, and the gap has grown bigger ever since. “[The] early perception that COVID-19 was only impacting places “somewhere else”—and that adopting measures such as wearing masks, observing social distancing, and eschewing large gatherings need not be followed—is no longer credible,” Frey warns. “The pandemic is impacting states and counties of nearly all types: urban, suburban, and rural, as well as areas with sharply different demographic attributes.”


Graph showing obesity rates by gender
In a brief as part of the Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity, Richard Reeves examines the exacerbating impact COVID-19 has had on communities vulnerable to pre-existing conditions and co-morbidities—deepening the racial divide in health and health care. The chart illustrates the significant inequities by race and gender, with overall obesity rates highest among Black women (57%), followed by Hispanic women (49%). The risk of being severely obese is also highest among Black women (16%), followed by Hispanic women (10%). Reeves adds that Black and Hispanic women are also much more likely to report that they suffer from food insecurity. “The rise in diet-driven chronic disease calls for of the transformation of our entire broken food system—from agricultural subsidies (especially for high-fructose corn syrup), official dietary guidelines, advertising, school lunches, and budget choices,” Reeves concludes. “Here I offer one key policy proposal—a tax on sugary drinks that offers the prospect of some real, immediate impact.”


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