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Measuring inequalities in health: What do we know? What do we need to know?

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  • Costa-Font, Joan
  • Hernández-Quevedo, Cristina

Abstract

We argue that policy analysis aiming at curving inequalities in health calls for a better understanding of what we know about its measurement pathways. Assuming that health is a good that individuals trade off against other goods, unavoidable health inequalities result when after controlling for unavoidable factors (e.g., age and gender), differences in socioeconomic status of an individual systemically engender differences in health outcomes. However, the measurement of such inequality and underpinning reasons behind are not suggestive of a clear picture. In reviewing the literature, we conclude that it is unclear what the evidence suggests about the reasons for health inequalities as well as the best possible instruments to measure both inequality and socioeconomic health gradients. We provide an evaluation of the different sources of health inequity and we draw upon measurement issues and their policy significance.

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  • Costa-Font, Joan & Hernández-Quevedo, Cristina, 2012. "Measuring inequalities in health: What do we know? What do we need to know?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 106(2), pages 195-206.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:hepoli:v:106:y:2012:i:2:p:195-206 DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2012.04.007
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    1. repec:eee:hepoli:v:121:y:2017:i:10:p:1063-1071 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sharon Merkin & Hadar Arditi-Babchuk & Tamy Shohat, 2015. "Neighborhood socioeconomic status and self-rated health in Israel: the Israel National Health Interview Survey," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 60(6), pages 651-658, September.
    3. Lauri Peterson, 2014. "The Measurement of Non-economic Inequality in Well-Being Indices," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 119(2), pages 581-598, November.
    4. Hajizadeh, Mohammad & Nandi, Arijit & Heymann, Jody, 2014. "Social inequality in infant mortality: What explains variation across low and middle income countries?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 36-46.
    5. Costa-Font, Joan & Hernández-Quevedo, Cristina & Jiménez-Rubio, Dolores, 2014. "Income inequalities in unhealthy life styles in England and Spain," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 13(C), pages 66-75.
    6. Embrett, Mark G. & Randall, G.E., 2014. "Social determinants of health and health equity policy research: Exploring the use, misuse, and nonuse of policy analysis theory," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 147-155.
    7. Joan Costa-i-Font & Frank Cowell, 2013. "Measuring Health Inequality with Categorical Data: Some Regional Patterns," CESifo Working Paper Series 4427, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Hajizadeh, Mohammad & Mitnitski, Arnold & Rockwood, Kenneth, 2016. "Socioeconomic gradient in health in Canada: Is the gap widening or narrowing?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 120(9), pages 1040-1050.
    9. Tavares, Lara Patrício & Zantomio, Francesca, 2017. "Inequity in healthcare use among older people after 2008: The case of southern European countries," Health Policy, Elsevier, pages 1063-1071.
    10. Joan Costa-i-Font & Frank Cowell, 2016. "The Measurement of Health Inequalities: Does Status Matter?," CESifo Working Paper Series 6117, CESifo Group Munich.

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    Keywords

    Socioeconomic status; Health inequalities; Income; Education; Health;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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