IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Shifting dollars, saving lives: What might happen to mortality rates, and socio-economic inequalities in mortality rates, if income was redistributed?

Listed author(s):
  • Blakely, Tony
  • Wilson, Nick
Registered author(s):

    Personal or household income predicts mortality risk, with each additional dollar of income conferring a slightly smaller decrease in the mortality risk. Regardless of whether levels of income inequality in a society impact on mortality rates over and above this individual-level association (i.e., the 'income inequality hypothesis'), the current consensus is that narrowing income distributions will probably improve overall health status and reduce socio-economic inequalities in health. Our objective was to quantify this impact in a national population using 1.3 million 25-59-year-old respondents to the New Zealand 1996 census followed-up for mortality over 3 years. We modelled 10-40% shifts of everyone's income to the mean income (equivalent to 10-40% reductions in the Gini coefficient). The strength of the income-mortality association was modelled using rate ratios from Poisson regression of mortality on the logarithm of equivalised household income, adjusted for confounders of age, marital status, education, car access, and neighbourhood socio-economic deprivation. Overall mortality reduced by 4-13% following 10-40% shifts in everyone's income, respectively. Inequalities in mortality reduced by 12-38% following 10-40% shifts in everyone's income. Sensitivity analyses suggested that halving the strength of the income-mortality association (i.e., assuming our multivariable estimate still overestimated the causal income-mortality association) would result in 2-6% reductions in overall mortality and 6-19% reductions in inequalities in mortality in this New Zealand setting. Many commentators have noted the non-linear association of income with mortality predicts that narrowing the income distribution will both reduce overall mortality rates and reduce inequalities in mortality. Quantifying such reductions can only be done with considerable uncertainty. Nevertheless, we tentatively suggest that the gains in overall mortality will be modest (although still potentially worthwhile from a policy perspective) and the reductions in inequalities in mortality will be more substantial.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

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

    Volume (Year): 62 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 8 (April)
    Pages: 2024-2034

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:8:p:2024-2034
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Postal:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. A. B. Atkinson, 2003. "Income Inequality in OECD Countries: Data and Explanations," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 49(4), pages 479-513.
    2. Ecob, Russell & Davey Smith, George, 1999. "Income and health: what is the nature of the relationship?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(5), pages 693-705, March.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1995:85:9:1231-1236_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Benzeval, Michaela & Judge, Ken, 2001. "Income and health: the time dimension," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(9), pages 1371-1390, May.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1995:85:7:949-956_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:9:1476-1483_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:8:p:2024-2034. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.