Perspectives article: income inequality, health, and household welfare

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The growth in US income inequality since the late 1970s has directed much public policy attention to the macroeconomic and political factors contributing to such growth. In this review, I focus on the microeconomic implications of income inequality for household wellbeing, specifically, on whether income inequality per se has an impact on the health of household members. In doing so I review work that has posited the social and biological pathways through which inequality may affect health, and the empirical approaches and challenges to identifying such causality. I find that despite both theoretical and conceptual arguments that income inequality may affect the health of family members through the family’s relative position in the income distribution, the weight of the empirical evidence does not support such a causal relationship. I conclude with a discussion differentiating the importance of income support for those in the lower percentiles of the income distribution, and efforts to improve the relative economic status of others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-55
Number of pages19
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Causality
  • Economic status
  • Health
  • Income inequality
  • Public policy


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