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Income Distribution, Infant Mortality, and Health Care Expenditure

Do health outcomes depend on relative income as well as on an individual?s absolute level of income? We use infant mortality as a health status indicator and ?nd a signi?cant and positive link between infant mortality and income inequality using cross-national data for 98 countries. Holding constant the income of each of the three poorest quintiles of a country's population, we ?nd that an increase in the income of the upper 20% of the income distribution is associated with higher, not lower infant mortality. Our results imply that a one percentage point decrease in the income share of the richest quintile correlates with a decrease in infant mortality by nearly two percent. The surprisingly positive coe¢cient becomes insignificant when we control for public health care expenditure. Low public expenditure on health care seems to translate into limited access to health care for the poor.

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Paper provided by Tor Vergata University, CEIS in its series CEIS Research Paper with number 146.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: 30 Sep 2009
Date of revision: 30 Sep 2009
Handle: RePEc:rtv:ceisrp:146
Contact details of provider: Postal: CEIS - Centre for Economic and International Studies - Faculty of Economics - University of Rome "Tor Vergata" - Via Columbia, 2 00133 Roma
Phone: +390672595601
Fax: +39062020687
Web page: http://www.ceistorvergata.it
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Order Information: Postal: CEIS - Centre for Economic and International Studies - Faculty of Economics - University of Rome "Tor Vergata" - Via Columbia, 2 00133 Roma
Web: http://www.ceistorvergata.it Email:


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  1. Pritchett, Lant & Summers, Lawrence H., 1993. "Wealthier is healthier," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1150, The World Bank.
  2. Angus Deaton, 2002. "Health, inequality, and economic development," Working Papers 209, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  3. Adda, Jerome & Chandola, Tarani & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Socio-economic status and health: causality and pathways," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 57-63, January.
  4. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2014. "Economic Consequences of Mispredicting Utility," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 937-956, August.
  5. Waldmann, Robert J, 1992. "Income Distribution and Infant Mortality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1283-302, November.
  6. John Wildman & Hugh Gravelle & Matthew Sutton, 2003. "Health and income inequality: attempting to avoid the aggregation problem," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(9), pages 999-1004.
  7. 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.
  8. Le Grand, Julian, 1987. "Inequalities in health : Some international comparisons," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 182-191.
  9. Robert H. Frank, 2005. "Positional Externalities Cause Large and Preventable Welfare Losses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 137-141, May.
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