The SES Health Gradient on Both Sides of The Atlantic

James Banks, Michael Marmot, Zoe Oldfield and James P. Smith

in Developments in the Economics of Aging

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780226903354
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226903361 | DOI:
The SES Health Gradient on Both Sides of The Atlantic

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This chapter investigates the size of health differences that exist among men in England and the United States and how those differences vary by socioeconomic status (SES) in both countries. Three SES measures are emphasized—education, household income, and household wealth—and the health outcomes investigated span multiple dimensions as well. The key findings are first, looking across a wide variety of diseases, average health status among men is much worse in America compared to England. Second, there exists a steep negative health gradient for men in both countries, where men at the bottom of the economic hierarchy are in much worse health than those at the top. This social health gradient exists whether education, income, or financial wealth is used as the marker of one's SES status. When self-reported general health status is used as the measure of health status, the health of American men appears to be superior to the health of English men. This apparent contradiction most likely stems from different thresholds used by American and English men when evaluating their health status on subjective scales. For the same objective health status, Americans are much more likely to say that their health is good than are the English.

Keywords: America; England; men; health status; socioeconomic status; social health gradient; education; household income; household wealth

Chapter.  17906 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Economics

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