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Understanding socio-economic inequalities in childhood respiratory health


  • Carol Propper
  • John A. Rigg


Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Recent evidence has shown a socio-economic gradient in its distribution. This paper examines whether a number of factors argued to have led to a rise in the incidence of asthma might also explain the social gradient. Several of these have been the object of policy intervention, though not necessarily with the aim of lowering childhood respiratory conditions. Using a large cohort study (the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) we find significant inequalities in three respiratory conditions in middle childhood. We investigate eight potential mediating factors: exposure to other children in infancy, child's diet, poor housing conditions, maternal smoking, parental history of asthma, poor child health at birth, maternal age at child's birth and local deprivation. We find that each of these alone typically explains a relatively modest part of each respiratory inequality, with child's diet, local deprivation and maternal smoking generally the most important. But taken together, the mediating factors account for a substantial part of the respiratory inequalities. So the socio-economic gradient appears to operate through a number of inter-correlated pathways, some of which may be amenable to policy intervention.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol Propper & John A. Rigg, 2006. "Understanding socio-economic inequalities in childhood respiratory health," CASE Papers case109, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case109

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
    2. Currie, Alison & Shields, Michael A. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2004. "Is the Child Health / Family Income Gradient Universal? Evidence from England," IZA Discussion Papers 1328, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    More about this item


    Asthma; wheeze; socio-economic inequalities; mediating;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health


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