Is Regional Income Inequality Associated With the Individual Health of Older Adults? Evidence From the Health and Retirement Study

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This research examined the association between regional income inequality and the individual health of older adults. Individuals ages 50 and older were drawn from the 1996 to 2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to estimate panel data regression models to assess the respective impacts of household income ratios of the 90th to 10th percentiles as well as the 50th to 10th percentiles on the number of doctor-diagnosed health conditions, controlling for regional fixed effects, time fixed effects, and individual characteristics. The findings revealed that in regions with greater 50/10 income ratios, older adults experience fewer doctor-diagnosed health conditions. Namely, a one-unit increase in the 50/10 income ratio was significantly associated with a 9.1 percent decrease in the number of doctor-diagnosed health conditions. The research also revealed that in regions with greater within-group income inequality, that is, inequality as measured within the same marital status reference group, older adults still experience fewer health conditions. Thus, in light of prior studies on the topic that either support the connection between greater income inequality and worse individual health or oppose this connection altogether, the findings suggest that greater income inequality at the regional level may be linked with better individual health.



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Poverty and Public Policy

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