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Income Inequality and Population Health Research

According to the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, “inequities are killing people on a grand scale.”

In all wealthy economies, the least well off tend to have relatively poorer health, even though they are typically living well above subsistence levels and have higher income levels than their counterparts in much poorer countries. Evidence also suggests that countries with a highly unequal distribution of income have poorer population health outcomes than those having a more egalitarian distribution of income.

This hypothesis has been widely debated since the early 1990s. CRUNCH's income inequality project is designed to address two recently-identified research needs:

  • multi-level studies that separate the effects of area-level income inequality on individual health from the effects of individual-level socio-economic variables, and
  • studies using consistent measures of both the main independent variable (income inequality) and the outcome (population health).

Study objectives are:

  1. to investigate the incremental effect of income inequality in Canadian metropolitan areas in 1991 on individual 10-year mortality risk, controlling for individual socio-economic characteristics. We are paying specific attention to cause of death and gender differences. 
  2. to investigate the association between income inequality and premature mortality in metropolitan areas in Canada in 2001 and in the United States in 2000.