Subjective Health and Income since 1972

Michael Hout, University of California, Berkeley
Scott M. Lynch, Princeton University

Health disparities by income in the United States are well-documented. However, most contemporary research summarizes the relationship between income and health in a single number. In this paper, we provide a more detailed examination of the dynamics of the income-health relationship by considering change over time in how health extremes – poor health or excellent health – relate to family income. Using 1972-2006 data from the GSS and the NHIS, we find that the proportion of low-income adults who were in fair or poor health dropped from about 60 percent in 1972 to 45 percent by 1982 while the proportion of higher-income adults reporting poor health did not change. Since 1985, reports of excellent health have risen for the affluent and fallen for the poor. In attending to these and similar details, we contribute to understanding more about the dynamics of health disparities.

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Presented in Session 69: Socio-Economic Status and Adult Health/Mortality