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J Health Econ. 2009 Jul;28(4):805-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2009.05.001. Epub 2009 May 27.

Child health and the income gradient: evidence from Australia.

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  • 1Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, The University of Queensland, Australia. r.khanam@uq.edu.au

Abstract

The positive relationship between household income and child health is well documented in the child health literature but the precise mechanisms via which income generates better health and whether the income gradient is increasing in child age are not well understood. This paper presents new Australian evidence on the child health-income gradient. We use data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), which involved two waves of data collection for children born between March 2003 and February 2004 (B-Cohort: 0-3 years), and between March 1999 and February 2000 (K-Cohort: 4-7 years). This data set allows us to test the robustness of some of the findings of the influential studies of Case et al. [Case, A., Lubotsky, D., Paxson, C., 2002. Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient. The American Economic Review 92 (5) 1308-1344] and Currie and Stabile [Currie, J., Stabile, M., 2003. Socioeconomic status and child health: why is the relationship stronger for older children. The American Economic Review 93 (5) 1813-1823], and a recent study by Currie et al. [Currie, A., Shields, M.A., Price, S.W., 2007. The child health/family income gradient: evidence from England. Journal of Health Economics 26 (2) 213-232]. The richness of the LSAC data set also allows us to conduct further exploration of the determinants of child health. Our results reveal an increasing income gradient by child age using similar covariates to Case et al. [Case, A., Lubotsky, D., Paxson, C., 2002. Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient. The American Economic Review 92 (5) 1308-1344]. However, the income gradient disappears if we include a rich set of controls. Our results indicate that parental health and, in particular, the mother's health plays a significant role, reducing the income coefficient to zero; suggesting an underlying mechanism that can explain the observed relationship between child health and family income. Overall, our results for Australian children are similar to those produced by Propper et al. [Propper, C., Rigg, J., Burgess, S., 2007. Child health: evidence on the roles of family income and maternal mental health from a UK birth cohort. Health Economics 16 (11) 1245-1269] on their British child cohort.

PMID:
19525024
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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