Contrasting Inequalities: Comparing Correlates of Health in Canada and the United States
Comparative health studies consistently find that Canadians on average are healthier than Americans. Comparing health status within and between Canada and the United States provides key insights into the distribution of inequalities in these two countries. Canada’s universal health care insurance system contrasts with the mixed system of the United States: universal care for seniors, private health care insurance for many, and no or intermittent coverage for others. These countries are also notably different in the extent of income and racial/ethnic inequalities. It is within this context that this study compares the relative strength of the relationships between social, economic, and demographic factors (sex, age, marital status, income, education, country of birth, and race/ethnicity) and health status in Canada and the United States. Evidence drawn from the 2002-2003 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health reveals that the correlations between these factors, above all country of birth and race/ethnicity, and health are relatively stronger in the United States, reflecting differences in health care access and racial/ethnic-based inequalities between the countries. The study findings are suggestive of the effects of universal access to health care and more equitable distribution of other social resources in protecting the health of the general population.
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