At first glance, there appears to be a connection between income and health inequality. But it actually is more complicated.
The Reason For Health Inequality
Health inequality is growing in the U.S. Seeing a bigger U.S. life expectancy gap, some hypothesize that income is the reason. And they can use statistical data to indicate the connection.
Below, the upward sloping orange line shows a positive tie between life expectancy and income for 2010. More precisely, researchers observed the connection between a 10 percent increase in county income and a five and one half month rise in life expectancy for 2010 and three and one half months for 1995. They also point out that some counties are falling behind. Reflecting a bigger life expectancy gap, the difference between the 75th and 25th percentiles was bigger in 2010 than 1995;
But there is much more to the story.
A recent Swedish study created questions about the causes of U.S. health inequality There, healthcare access is universal. And yet still lower income individuals had a shorter life expectancy.
Equipped with the facts from Sweden and a 2016 study of the poor and life expectancy, researchers looked beyond income. Focusing on behavior, they concluded that it’s neither the healthcare you access nor your economic well-being. Instead for lower income individuals, unhealthy behaviors like smoking, obesity, and exercise rates could be a major cause of the life expectancy gap.
Our Bottom Line: Life Expectancy
Let’s just take a look at life expectancies around the world.
Seeing all this data returns me to this year’s Nobel Laureates in Economics. We do indeed need to look at the people behind the big data to get the true picture. At econlife, we looked at their work, here.
My sources and more: Always insightful, the NY Fed’s Liberty Street Economics had the summary reasons for healthcare inequality. From there, I followed their link to a Raj Chetty paper and the Swedish life expectancy study.