Rising U.S. income inequality, gender and individual self-rated health, 1972-2004

Hui Zheng
Social Science & Medicine 2009, 69 (9): 1333-42
The effect of income inequality on health has been a contested topic among social scientists. Most previous research is based on cross-sectional comparisons rather than temporal comparisons. Using data from the General Social Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau, this study examines how rising income inequality affects individual self-rated health in the U.S. from 1972 to 2004. Data are analyzed using hierarchical generalized linear models. The findings suggest a significant association between income inequality and individual self-rated health. The dramatic increase in income inequality from 1972 to 2004 increases the odds of worse self-rated health by 9.4 percent. These findings hold for three measures of income inequality: the Gini coefficient, the Atkinson Index, and the Theil entropy index. Results also suggest that overall income inequality and gender-specific income inequality harm men's, but not women's, self-rated health. These findings also hold for the three measures of income inequality. These findings suggest that inattention to gender composition may explain apparent discrepancies across previous studies.

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