Is Justice Good for Your Sleep?

November 4, 2009

A paper I co-authored with my dear sister (a demographer at the State University of New York at Stony Brook) on the social determinants of sleep is now out in the journal Social Theory and Health.

Here’s the abstract:

Is justice good for your sleep?
(And therefore, good for your health?)

Authors: Benjamin Hale and Lauren Hale

In this paper, we present an argument strengthening the view of Norman Daniels, Bruce Kennedy and Ichiro Kawachi that justice is good for one’s health. We argue that the pathways through which social factors produce inequalities in sleep more strongly imply a unidirectional and non-voluntary causality than with most other public health issues. Specifically, we argue against the ‘voluntarism objection’ – an objection that suggests that adverse public health outcomes can be traced back to the free and voluntary choices of individual actors. Our argument proceeds along two lines: an empirical line and a conceptual line. We first show that much of the empirical research on sleep supports the view that those with fewer opportunities are those who have poorer sleep habits. We then argue that sleep-related decisions are not of the same nature as most other lifestyle choices, and therefore are not as easily susceptible to the voluntarism objection.


  1. For one thing having to sleep with a gun under your pillow is not particularly rest inducing.

  2. Under your pillow? You must not be familiar with this product.

  3. OK, so Eli is a traditionalist. Shoot me.

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