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Relative income, race, and mortality


  • Miller, Douglas L.
  • Paxson, Christina


The topic of this paper is the relationship between relative income and health. We examine whether people whose incomes are high relative to others who live in the same geographic area have lower or higher mortality. This analysis holds own income fixed, so the question is not only whether own income matters for health, but also whether the incomes of others affects health given own income. It is well-established that wealthier individuals are healthier and live longer (see Sorlie (1995) and Elo and Preston (1996), and the review in Adler (1994)). The proposition that relative income affects health is more controversial. Although there are reasons why there could be health benefits from having wealthier neighbors, a growing body of literature argues that low relative income is a health hazard. This proposition runs counter to the Pareto principle and, if correct, could have very unorthodox implications for economic policy.
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Suggested Citation

  • Miller, Douglas L. & Paxson, Christina, 2006. "Relative income, race, and mortality," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 979-1003, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:25:y:2006:i:5:p:979-1003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Absolute Income, Relative Income, Income Inequality, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. Soobader, Mah-Jabeen & LeClere, Felicia B., 1999. "Aggregation and the measurement of income inequality: effects on morbidity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(6), pages 733-744, March.
    3. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
    4. Angus S. Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Mortality, Education, Income, and Inequality among American Cohorts," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 129-170 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Christine Eibner & William N. Evans, 2005. "Relative Deprivation, Poor Health Habits, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
    6. Michael Ash & T. Robert Fetter, 2004. "Who Lives on the Wrong Side of the Environmental Tracks? Evidence from the EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators Model," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(2), pages 441-462.
    7. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Skinner, 2003. "Geography and Racial Health Disparities," NBER Working Papers 9513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Deaton, Angus & Lubotsky, Darren, 2003. "Mortality, inequality and race in American cities and states," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1139-1153, March.
    9. repec:pri:indrel:dsp01qz20ss50t is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    11. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2004. "Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health From a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Papers 5, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    12. Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2002. "Income Inequality and Health Status in the United States: Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(3), pages 510-539.
    13. Powell, James L. & Stoker, Thomas M., 1985. "The estimation of complete aggregation structures," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 317-344.
    14. Jonathan Skinner & Douglas Staiger, 2007. "Technology Adoption from Hybrid Corn to Beta-Blockers," NBER Chapters,in: Hard-to-Measure Goods and Services: Essays in Honor of Zvi Griliches, pages 545-570 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1995:85:7:949-956_1 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination


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