The nature and size of socioeconomic inequities makes them one of the most significant factors contributing to health disparities. It has been well documented that members from low income environments tend to suffer from higher rates of morbidity and mortality than those from higher income environments. Interestingly enough, the same association between socioeconomic position and health has also been seen in higher socioeconomic groups when comparing those with more income to those with slightly less in a comparable income bracket. In other words, those with more income maintained better health outcomes than those just below them in the socioeconomic hierarchy. Ultimately, why these inequities persist and determining which health policies will likely reduce these disparities still remains unknown, yet studies in this area continue to reveal more.Researchers have also proposed that the relationship between health and income distribution is evidence of psychosocial effects of relative income. As such, this may suggest that quality of life is enhanced by reducing relative poverty and narrowing income distribution, rather than random instances of economic growth. The idea being that health is sensitive to both quantitative and qualitative aspects of material and social change; thereby acting as a better indicator of one’s quality of life rather than any mix of economic indicators.
Data needed to assess household economics can be obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. Figures such as the national median household income, the number of family members entering the workplace, average wages, poverty and unemployment rates can all be accessed on this site.
Downstream Health Effects
Policies that affect income or wealth may change household spending patterns on goods affecting health, such as health care, food, and recreation. Loss of discretionary income for health-related goods can thus affect morbidity and mortality. Further, policies may affect income inequality, or the distribution of wealth in societies, which is also independently associated with morbidity and mortality.
Policies and Other Determinants
- Mixed income and mixed use development, which allows residential, retail and commercial uses in close proximity to one another, sometimes in the same building, encourages people from different economic categories to interact more with one another while spending more time in their neighborhoods. Such environments help to ameliorate housing inequities and could possibly reduce the negative health effects associated with disparities
- Living wage ordinance policies that mandate pay rates for designated job categories have the potential to reduce mortality rates and their associated costs. Research shows that the associated health benefits from such ordinances are more cost-effective than equivalent wage increments. Income has also been shown to be a key determinant of educational attainment, which in turn is an important determinant of health. Similarly, there are potential health benefits stemming from increased income on childcare by making quality childcare more accessible