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Soc Sci Med. 2005 Dec;61(12):2568-76. Epub 2005 Jun 15.

Income inequality, poverty, and population health: evidence from recent data for the United States.

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  • Economics Department, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4200, USA. rram@ilstu.edu


In this study, state-level US data for the years 2000 and 1990 are used to provide additional evidence on the roles of income inequality and poverty in population health. Five main points are noted. First, contrary to the suggestion made in several recent studies, the income inequality parameter is observed to be quite robust and carries statistical significance in mortality equations estimated from several observation sets and a fairly wide variety of specificational choices. Second, the evidence does not indicate that significance of income inequality is lost when education variables are included. Third, similarly, the income inequality parameter shows significance when a race variable is added, and also when both race and urbanization terms are entered. Fourth, while poverty is seen to have some mortality-increasing consequence, the role of income inequality appears stronger. Fifth, income inequality retains statistical significance when a quadratic income term is added and also if the log-log version of a fairly inclusive model is estimated. I therefore suggest that the recent skepticism articulated by several scholars in regard to the robustness of the income inequality parameters in mortality equations estimated from the US data should be reconsidered.

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