Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Income Inequality and Health

  • Douglas CarrollEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_466



Income inequality is usually defined as the proportion of national income and benefit enjoyed by a specified proportion, say 50%, of the least well-off in society. Occasionally, it has been measured using something called the Gini coefficient, which is a statistical measure of dispersal. Applied to national or state income distribution, a Gini coefficient of 0 would reflect total equality, whereas 1 reflects complete inequality. Egalitarian countries such as Japan and Sweden have Gini coefficients ca. 0.25, whereas more unequal countries like the UK and USA have coefficients ca. 0.36 and 0.41, respectively.


That health varies with socioeconomic position in Western societies is now commonplace. Irrespective of how socioeconomic position is measured, by occupational status, income, level of education, or neighborhood deprivation, it shows a consistent negative association with most measures of ill health, all-cause mortality,...

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References and Readings

  1. Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. (2009). The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of BirminghamEdgbaston, BirminghamUK