Income Inequality and Population Health: A Panel Data Analysis

Date

2022

Authors

Validova, Asiya

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Abstract

The dissertation examines the link between income inequality and population health indicators, including life expectancy, infant mortality, and COVID-19 mortality. It aims to determine if an unequal income distribution poses a hazard to the health status of individuals in society. Using a large international panel dataset from the newest version of the Standardized World Income Inequality Database, the study re-examines the relative income hypothesis and solves such methodological challenges as countries' stratification and heterogeneity bias. Pooled time-series cross-section and country fixed-effects models estimates, based on a sample of developed and developing countries, indicate that income inequality is negatively associated with life expectancy at birth and does not play a significant role in determining infant mortality. Furthermore, the results indicate different effects of income inequality depending on a country's economic standing. Once countries were divided into income groups, the association between income inequality and life expectancy was found only relevant for the group of low-income countries. On the contrary, in the case of infant mortality, a significant association was observed for high-income countries only, thus supporting the relative income hypothesis for the most developed countries. Finally, examining the role of income inequality as a possible driver of health inequities during the COVID-19 pandemic indicates a positive and statistically significant association between the country's Gini coefficient and the number of excess deaths during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings emphasize the need to develop strategies to address income inequality as a critical socio-economic factor and target interventions beneficial for the population in the lowest part of the income distribution.

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Keywords

COVID-19 Mortality, Fixed-effects, Income Inequality, Infant Mortality, Life Expectancy at Birth, Population Health, life expectancy

Citation

Department

Applied Demography