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What does the empirical evidence tell us about the injustice of health inequalities?

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  • Angus Deaton

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

Whether or not health inequalities are unjust, as well as how to address them, depends on how they are caused. I review a range of health inequalities, between men and women, between aristocrats and commoners, between blacks and whites, and between rich and poor within and between countries. I tentatively identify pathways of causality in each case, and make judgments about whether or not each inequality is unjust. Health inequalities that come from medical innovation are among the most benign. I emphasize the importance of early life inequalities, and of trying to moderate the link between parental and child circumstances. I argue that racial inequalities in health in the US are unjust and add to injustices in other domains. The vast inequalities in health between rich and poor countries are arguably neither just nor unjust, nor are they easily addressable. I argue that there are grounds to be concerned about the rapid expansion in inequality at the very top of the income distribution in the US; this is not only an injustice in itself, but it poses a risk of spawning other injustices, in education, in health, and in governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Angus Deaton, 2011. "What does the empirical evidence tell us about the injustice of health inequalities?," Working Papers 1364, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:january2011-3
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    Cited by:

    1. Halla, Martin & Zweimüller, Martina, 2011. "The Effect of Health on Income: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Commuting Accidents," IZA Discussion Papers 5833, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. John E. Roemer & Pedro Rosa Dias, 2016. "Barefoot and footloose doctors: optimal resource allocation in developing countries with medical migration," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 46(2), pages 335-358, February.
    3. Halla, Martin & Zweimüller, Martina, 2013. "The effect of health on earnings: Quasi-experimental evidence from commuting accidents," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 23-38.
    4. Srinivas, Goli, 2014. "Demographic convergence and its linkage with health inequalities in India," MPRA Paper 79823, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 05 Dec 2014.
    5. Persson, Sofie & Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Steen Carlsson, Katarina, 2016. "Labor market consequences of childhood onset type 1 diabetes," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 180-192.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    health inequality; class; race;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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