Income inequality, alcoholism and high blood pressure prevalence in the U.S

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Lobby (Annenberg Center)

Author(s): Natallia Gray


This study examined the effect of state-level income inequality on self-reported physical and mental health as well as risky-behavior indicators among adults in the U.S. using the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System for 1984-2014. We included state Gini coefficient, Atkinson Index, relative mean income deviation, theil index, and income concentration ratios as different measures of income inequality. A wide range of health status measures, including physical and mental health, diabetic status, cardiovascular and sleep indicators, body mass index, and smoking and drinking behavior, was used to study the effect of income inequality on health. Principal Component Analysis based on a broad range of subjective health outcomes is used to analyse the association between income inequality and self-reported health measures. Results indicated that a one percentage point increase in Gini coefficient was associated with a 0.7 increase in the number of days in poor health and an increase in the probability of being told by a doctor or a nurse that an individual had high blood pressure by 9.4 percentage points. In addition, greater state-level income inequality was associated with an increased likelihood of an individual drinking any alcoholic beverages in the past 30 days by 12 percentage points, a higher average number of days individuals drank by 8.6 more days, and 0.32 more alcoholic beverages consumed per day.