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Income, relative income, and self-reported health in Britain 1979-2000

  • Hugh Gravelle

    (National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, York, UK)

  • Matt Sutton

    (Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK)

We test the relative income hypothesis that an individual's health depends on the distribution of income in a reference group, as well as on the income of the individual. We use data on 231 208 individuals in Great Britain from 19 rounds of the General Household Survey between 1979 and 2000. Results are insensitive to the measure of self-assessed health used but the sign and significance of the effect of relative income depend on the reference group (national or regional) and the measure of relative income (Gini coefficient, absolute or proportional difference from the reference group mean, Yitzhaki absolute and proportional relative deprivation and affluence). Only one model (relative deprivation measured as income proportional to regional mean income) performs better than the model without relative income and has a positive estimated effect of absolute income on health. In this model the increase in the probability of good health from a ceteris paribus reduction in relative deprivation from the upper quartile to zero is 0.010, whereas an increase in income from the lower to the upper quartile increases the probability by 0.056. While our results provide only very weak support for the relative deprivation hypothesis, the inevitable correlation of measures of individual income and relative deprivation measured by comparing income and incomes in a reference group makes identification of the separate effects of income and relative deprivation problematic. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/hec.1354
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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 18 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 125-145

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Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:18:y:2009:i:2:p:125-145
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Paula K. Lorgelly & Joanne Lindley, 2008. "What is the relationship between income inequality and health? Evidence from the BHPS," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(2), pages 249-265.
  4. Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 1999. "Re-Examining the Evidence of an Ecological Association between Income Inequality and Health," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9922, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  5. 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.
  6. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-24, May.
  7. Hey, John D & Lambert, Peter J, 1980. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient: Comment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 567-73, November.
  8. Craig, Neil, 2005. "Exploring the generalisability of the association between income inequality and self-assessed health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(11), pages 2477-2488, June.
  9. Chang, Virginia W. & Christakis, Nicholas A., 2005. "Income inequality and weight status in US metropolitan areas," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 83-96, July.
  10. Ettner, Susan L., 1996. "New evidence on the relationship between income and health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 67-85, February.
  11. Benzeval, Michaela & Judge, Ken, 2001. "Income and health: the time dimension," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(9), pages 1371-1390, May.
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