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Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jan;58(1):41-56.

Beyond the income inequality hypothesis: class, neo-liberalism, and health inequalities.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8. david.coburn@utoronto.ca

Abstract

This paper describes and critiques the income inequality approach to health inequalities. It then presents an alternative class-based model through a focus on the causes and not only the consequences of income inequalities. In this model, the relationship between income inequality and health appears as a special case within a broader causal chain. It is argued that global and national socio-political-economic trends have increased the power of business classes and lowered that of working classes. The neo-liberal policies accompanying these trends led to increased income inequality but also poverty and unequal access to many other health-relevant resources. But international pressures towards neo-liberal doctrines and policies are differentially resisted by various nations because of historically embedded variation in class and institutional structures. Data presented indicates that neo-liberalism is associated with greater poverty and income inequalities, and greater health inequalities within nations. Furthermore, countries with Social Democratic forms of welfare regimes (i.e., those that are less neo-liberal) have better health than do those that are more neo-liberal. The paper concludes with discussion of what further steps are needed to "go beyond" the income inequality hypothesis towards consideration of a broader set of the social determinants of health.

PMID:
14572920
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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