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Health Aff (Millwood). 2002 Mar-Apr;21(2):13-30.

Policy implications of the gradient of health and wealth.

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  • 1Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Economics, Princeton University, NJ, USA.


Men in the United States with family incomes in the top 5 percent of the distribution in 1980 had about 25 percent longer to live than did those in the bottom 5 percent. Proportional increases in income are associated with equal proportional decreases in mortality throughout the income distribution. I discuss possible reasons for this gradient and ask whether it calls for the redistribution of income in the interest of public health. I argue that the existence of the gradient strengthens the case for income redistribution in favor of the poor but that targeting health inequalities would not be sound policy.

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