Measuring the Health Gap between Low Income and other Australians, 1977 to 1995: Methodological Issues

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Discussion Paper

  • Published: August 2000
  • Author: Agnes Walker
  • Discussion ISSN:          
  • Keywords: economics, health and income

Abstract

Research has established internationally that people with low incomes have considerably poorer health and die much younger than do those with higher incomes. Since it is relative rather than absolute incomes that seem to matter, such health inequalities have been observed not only in developing, but also in developed countries such as Australia. What is the extent of these health inequalities in Australia? Has the health gap been widening or narrowing over the past two decades? Have the changes in the health gap followed shifts in income inequalities? These issues are discussed in the paper, drawing on the extensive literature and on recent NATSEM research into the way the health status of low income groups changed over the 1977-95 period. The focus is on the methodological difficulties that emerge when attempting multidisciplinary research of this kind. That is, the paper addresses the question: are traditional methodologies used in social science, health economics and microdata analysis adequate for the joint study of health and income inequalities?

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