IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/socmed/v66y2008i7p1614-1626.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Income inequality and population health: Correlation and causality

Author

Listed:
  • Babones, Salvatore J.

Abstract

A large literature now exists on the cross-national correlation between income inequality and population health, but existing studies suffer from sparse data, poor operationalization of income inequality, and the use of low-power statistical models. This paper sets out to estimate the ecological correlation between income inequality and indicators of population health in a very broad panel of countries, to demonstrate that this relationship is largely non-artifactual, and to test whether this relationship might be causal. Gini coefficients of national income inequality in 1970 and 1995 are correlated with life expectancy, infant mortality rates, and murder rates, controlling for national income per capita. In cross-sectional analyses, inequality is significantly correlated with life expectancy, infant mortality, and (inconsistently) the murder rate. The health correlations are shown to be not primarily due to the "convexity effect" of the non-linear relationship between individual income and individual health, which seems to account for no more than one-third of the relationship between inequality and health, and likely much less. Change in inequality 1970-1995 is significantly related to change in life expectancy and infant mortality, suggesting a causal relationship, but these correlations are not robust with respect to sample or controls. It can be concluded that there is a strong, consistent, statistically significant, non-artifactual correlation between national income inequality and population health, but though there is some evidence that this relationship is causal, the relative stability of income inequality over time in most countries makes causality difficult to test.

Suggested Citation

  • Babones, Salvatore J., 2008. "Income inequality and population health: Correlation and causality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1614-1626, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:7:p:1614-1626
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(07)00657-0
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
    2. Bobak, Martin & Pikhart, Hynek & Rose, Richard & Hertzman, Clyde & Marmot, Michael, 2000. "Socioeconomic factors, material inequalities, and perceived control in self-rated health: cross-sectional data from seven post-communist countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(9), pages 1343-1350, November.
    3. Wilkinson, Richard G & Pickett, Kate E., 2006. "Income inequality and population health: A review and explanation of the evidence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(7), pages 1768-1784, April.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:8:1290-1294_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Fred Pampel & Vijayan Pillai, 1986. "Patterns and determinants of infant mortality in developed nations, 1950–1975," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 23(4), pages 525-542, November.
    6. Gravelle, Hugh & Wildman, John & Sutton, Matthew, 2002. "Income, income inequality and health: what can we learn from aggregate data?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 577-589, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:7:p:1614-1626. 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). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.