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Rising U.S. income inequality and the changing gradient of socioeconomic status on physical functioning and activity limitations, 1984–2007

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  • Zheng, Hui
  • George, Linda K.
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    Abstract

    This study examines the interactive contextual effect of income inequality on health. Specifically, we hypothesize that income inequality will moderate the relationships between individual-level risk factors and health. Using National Health Interview Survey data 1984–2007 (n = 607,959) and U.S. Census data, this paper estimates the effect of the dramatic increase in income inequality in the U.S. over the past two decades on the gradient of socioeconomic status on two measures of health (i.e., physical functioning and activity limitations). Results indicate that increasing income inequality strengthens the protective effects of family income, employment, college education, and marriage on these two measures of health. In contrast, high school education's protective effect (relative to less than a high school education) weakens in the context of increasing income inequality. In addition, we find that increasing income inequality exacerbates men's disadvantages in physical functioning and activity limitations. These findings shed light on research about growing health disparities in the U.S. in the last several decades.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 12 ()
    Pages: 2170-2182

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:12:p:2170-2182

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    Related research

    Keywords: USA; Income inequality; Socioeconomic status; Physical functioning; Activity limitations; Contextual effect; Interactive contextual effect; Health disparities;

    References

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    1. Åberg Yngwe, Monica & Fritzell, Johan & Lundberg, Olle & Diderichsen, Finn & Burström, Bo, 2003. "Exploring relative deprivation: Is social comparison a mechanism in the relation between income and health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(8), pages 1463-1473, October.
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    13. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
    14. Jones, Andrew M. & Wildman, John, 2008. "Health, income and relative deprivation: Evidence from the BHPS," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 308-324, March.
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