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Socioeconomic status and child health: what is the role of health care, health conditions, injuries and maternal health?


  • Allin, Sara
  • Stabile, Mark


There is a persistent relationship between socioeconomic status and health that appears to have its roots in childhood. Not only do children in families with lower income and with mothers with lower levels of education have worse health on average than those with greater socioeconomic advantage, but also the gradient appears to steepen with age. This study contributes to the literature on the relationship between socioeconomic status and child health by testing the hypothesis that the increasing effect of family income on children's health with age relates to the children's use of health care services. It also investigates the role of specific health conditions, injuries or maternal health in explaining the steepening gradient. Drawing on a nationally representative survey from Canada, the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth from the period 1994/95–2008/09, this study provides further evidence of a steepening socioeconomic gradient in child health with age. It finds that accounting for health care use does not explain the steepening gradient and that the protective effect of income appears to be greater for those who had contact with the health system, in particular with regard to physician care and prescription drug use.

Suggested Citation

  • Allin, Sara & Stabile, Mark, 2012. "Socioeconomic status and child health: what is the role of health care, health conditions, injuries and maternal health?," Health Economics, Policy and Law, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 227-242, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:hecopl:v:7:y:2012:i:02:p:227-242_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Apouey, Bénédicte & Geoffard, Pierre-Yves, 2013. "Family income and child health in the UK," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 715-727.
    2. Ohrnberger, Julius & Fichera, Eleonora & Sutton, Matt, 2017. "The dynamics of physical and mental health in the older population," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 9(C), pages 52-62.
    3. Rasheda Khanam & Hong Son Nghiem & Luke Brian Connelly, 2014. "What Roles Do Contemporaneous And Cumulative Incomes Play In The Income–Child Health Gradient For Young Children? Evidence From An Australian Panel," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(8), pages 879-893, August.
    4. Anne Nolan & Richard Layte, 2014. "Socio-economic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 25-64.
    5. Chris Ryan & Anna Zhu, 2015. "Sibling Health, Schooling and Longer-Term Developmental Outcomes," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2015n21, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    6. Callum Rutherford & Helen Sharp & Jonathan Hill & Andrew Pickles & David Taylor-Robinson, 2019. "How does perinatal maternal mental health explain early social inequalities in child behavioural and emotional problems? Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(5), pages 1-14, May.
    7. Sepehri, Ardeshir & Guliani, Harminder, 2015. "Socioeconomic status and children's health: Evidence from a low-income country," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 23-31.
    8. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Jacqueline Lagendijk & Meertien K Sijpkens & Hiske E Ernst-Smelt & Sarah B Verbiest & Jasper V Been & Eric A P Steegers, 2020. "Risk-guided maternity care to enhance maternal empowerment postpartum: A cluster randomized controlled trial," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(11), pages 1-16, November.

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