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Soc Sci Med. 2002 Jan;54(1):65-77.

Metropolitan area income inequality and self-rated health--a multi-level study.

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Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, USA.


We examined the association of income inequality measured at the metropolitan area (MA) and county levels with individual self-rated health. Individual-level data were drawn from 259,762 respondents to the March Current Population Survey in 1996 and 1998. Income inequality and average income were calculated from 1990 census data, the former using Gini coefficients. Multi-level logistic regression models were used. Controlling for sex, age, race, and individual-level household income, respondents living in high, medium-high, and medium-low income inequality MAs had odds ratios of fair/poor self-rated health of 1.20 (95% confidence interval 1.04-1.38), 1.07 (0.95-1.21), and 1.02 (0.91-1.15), respectively, compared to people living in the MAs with the lowest income inequality. However, we found only a small association of MA-level income inequality with fair/poor health when controlling further for average MA household income: odds ratios were 1.10 (0.95-1.28), 1.01 (0.89-1.14), and 1.00 (0.89-1.12), respectively. Likewise, we found only a small association of county-level income inequality with self-rated health although only 40.7% of the sample had an identified county on CPS data. Regarding the association of state-level income inequality with fair/poor health, we found the association to be considerably stronger among non-metropolitan (i.e. rural) compared to metropolitan residents.

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